Mechanics-Aware Geometry: Designing for Physics and Play in Computational Fabrication

April 20, 2017
Halligan 102
Speaker: Emily Whiting, Dartmouth
Host: Remco Chang


With the advent of rapid prototyping technologies such as desktop 3D printers, it is now simple to produce physical realizations of complex 3D models. Yet today's tools for creating digital content are largely unaware of the fundamental laws that govern how structures behave in the real world. 3D modeling software typically gives no indication of gravity, support or other properties of mechanics. My research aims to establish a field of Mechanics-Aware Geometry: a cross-pollination of digital geometry processing and rapid prototyping, leveraging techniques in constrained optimization, numerical methods, and geometric computing. For example, our recent work in architectural geometry reduces labor and material in assembly of self-supporting block structures, where optimal construction sequences are found by solving a combinatorial problem. On the same theme, we developed techniques that optimize the internal structure of 3D printed objects to achieve design goals including static equilibrium, rotational inertia, buoyancy, and acoustics of wind instruments. This work has been featured in numerous media sources including TEDx, MIT Technology Review, and Make magazine.

Bio: Emily Whiting is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College where her research spans 3D fabrication, architectural geometry, structural mechanics, and computer-aided design. Before joining Dartmouth she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at ETH Zurich. She received her Ph.D. (2012) from MIT, where she worked in Computer Graphics and Building Technology. She obtained her M.Sc. (2006) in Computational Design from the MIT Department of Architecture, and B.A.Sc. (2004) in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto.