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Apple takes on AR and 3D printing with newly granted patent

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Further news about augmented reality and 3D printing today, as Apple is granted a patent for a method for instructing a 3D printing system.

First filed in 2013, the 20 page patent names Lejing Wang as the inventor. Wang is a specialist in augmented reality and computer vision at Metaio. Munich based Metaio began life as a Volkswagen spin-off, and in 2015 was reportedly acquired by Cupertino’s Apple Inc.

Granted on October 3, 2017, the patent describes, “A method for instructing a 3D printing system comprising a 3D printer having a printing coordinate system operable to print at least one first object onto an existing object.”

The patent follows news from earlier this year when Apple released ARKit for developers. ARKit is a software development kit for making apps designed to work in augmented reality environments.

The company hopes that ARKit will do for AR, what their software development kit did for the accelerating the use of smartphones.

Apples platform for developing augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad.

Structured light used to solve 3D printing challenge

The invention described shows how through the combination of a structured light 3D scanner a 3D printer may detect a failed or paused print, and then resume printing.

Specifically the patent attempts to address the challenge of, “where to place the existing object or how to adjust one or more print heads of the printer such that the additional objects will be printed onto a desired area of the surface of the existing object.”

One diagram illustrates how a handle is printed by the 3D printer onto an existing cup.

One diagram illustrates how a handle is printed by the 3D printer onto an existing cup.

In the document filed with the U.S. Patent Office possible applications of this invention are described. These include an ability to,

“resume a 3D printing process of printing an object. When a printing process of printing an object from an input of a virtual model using a 3D printer is interrupted and the printed part of the object is moved away from the printer, resuming the printing process requires printing the remaining part of the object onto a desired area of the already printed part in order to build the complete object satisfying the input of the virtual model.”

For example, “a 3D printer could print a handle onto an existing cup to build a composed object of the cup with the handle. The handle may have to be printed at a desired place of the cup satisfying a design.”

Apple moving in 3D printing?

The latest Apple patent also describes how augmented reality could also be used to, “visually augment a surface texture of a printed object”.

Another embodiment of the invention, in which an area is illuminated visually on a printing platform.

Another embodiment of the invention, in which an area is illuminated visually on a printing platform.

This latest filing may provide insight into Apple’s longer term vision for 3D printing. As 3D Printing Industry previously reported in June 2017, the Cupertino company were granted a patent for Scanning Projections and Image Capture Modules for 3D Mapping.

PrimeSense co-founder, Alexander Shpunt, is one of the inventors on that particular patent.

Further details of U.S. patent number 9,776,364, “Method for instructing a 3D printing system comprising a 3D printer and 3D printing system” can be read here.

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