Researchers have come up with a new method for creating everyday objects in a three dimensional (3D) shape - like a mask or a shoe - from sheets of inextensible material, which may be applied in many areas including microengineering, fashion and architecture.
Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, Carnegie Mellon University in the US and University of Hull in the UK developed an algorithm for creating complex objects by cutting holes in sheets of inextensible, but flexible materials such as metal, plastic and leather.
The process consists of cutting regular holes into the material so that it can be stretched and create complex 3D shapes.
It has potential applications in many areas, including microengineering, bioengineering, fashion and architecture, researchers said.
The algorithm clears the way to creating much more complex shapes using materials that are flexible yet inextensible, such as plastic and metal, they said.
Cutting regular geometric shapes into the material changes its properties and makes it auxetic - which means it can stretch in two dimensions at the same time.
The method developed by researchers uses computer simulation to identify exactly where to make the cuts and how to shape the material to create the 3-D piece.
Potential applications are far-ranging, researchers said.
"We could, for example, scan someone and create a piece of clothing that fits perfectly from a single piece of leather," said Mark Pauly, who runs EPFL's Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory.
Researchers tested their algorithm by making a high-heeled shoe, masks, a dress, and sculptures.
Thanks to its simplicity of use, the process could be applied in a wide range of fields, from small structures (microelectronics) to large ones (like building facades), researchers said.