The intersection between Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D printing has arrived. The two media have always been a natural fit, visualizing something in a 3D virtual space with VR then bringing that idea to the physical space with 3D printing.
The two technologies have been intertwined in some very exciting ways already. In the manufacturing field, BAE Systems is using VR with 3D printing to streamline designing and printing parts for aircrafts. Before actually printing parts, the designers at BAE Systems use VR to visualize their implementation, saving precious time spent testing different printed parts.
Scientists in New South Wales, Australia are merging 3D printing with VR to create “living” replicas of dinosaurs — using 3D printing to recreate the bones, then creating a VR experience that will make the dinosaur appear real. “We’re looking at how we can use virtual reality and 3D printing to help with providing educational experiences in a museum context”, said Ben Hornan, a co-founder of the project.
In the medical field, Doctors Without Borders have begun implementing 3D printed models of proposed hospitals that are then integrated with VR allowing people to virtually explore the layout. This also enables designers to develop hospitals remotely while ensuring that they will meet the needs of the communities they are serving.
Another application of VR for 3D printing is design. Getting started with 3D printing can seem like a daunting task for many inexperienced users. The whole process from design to print can seem a bit overwhelming and become a hurdle to new users especially when it comes to making objects or designs for printing. Learning how to design 3D printable models using CAD can take months. That’s where applications like Medium from Occulus are helping to make 3D printing more accessible to new users.
Sculpt of Chalice made in Occulus Medium (left) and a 3D printed version of the sculpt (right). From Instagram.
Medium is a virtual design space for the Occulus VR console that allows users to mold and sculpt anything they can imagine. Using the various tools provided in Medium, sculpting a print is made easy and accessible to everyone from new users to experienced artists. After you have sculpted your design in Medium, the interface allows you to export an .obj file with one click that is then easily 3D printable.
These are all practical applications of integrating 3D printing and VR that are currently being used across different industries. The possibilities to combine the two technologies are vast and there will be much more to come in the near future. Across various industries and applications, VR and 3D printing fit together perfectly. We look forward to seeing other new and exciting ways that this integration will evolve.