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7 June, 2015 - 21:58 By Kate Sweeney

Licensees sought for revolutionary 3D modelling software

software tool that flattens 3D developable freeform surfaces into 2D patterns

Researchers at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) filled the gap in existing CAD/CAM systems by creating a software tool that flattens 3D developable freeform surfaces into 2D patterns. 

Based on an implicit representation known as Layered-Depth-Normal-Image (LDNI) in high resolution, the research team also devised a modelling technique and an algorithm that generate 2D slices of a complex 3D form accurately and efficiently for rapid prototyping. CUHK is now looking for licensees from around the world interested in commercialising the technologies. 

Flattening 3D surface into 2D patterns

We’ve seen 3D objects made out of flat 2D materials every day, though we don’t necessarily take note of them– a ship from metal sheets, a stuffed toy or a dress from pieces of fabric, shoes or a couch from leather. 

To make 3D objects from flat materials, the 2D pieces are cut into certain shapes and sewn or welded together. Ideally, the 2D material should be free from compression or tension so that the end-product won’t warp as time goes by and the material isn’t put under stress. 

Traditionally, skilled artisans determine the best pattern by trial and error. Even nowadays, it is still a technological bottleneck to determine the correct 2D patterns that fold perfectly into 3D freeform surfaces as CAD-CAM software doesn’t support such calculations. The research team at CUHK came up with an innovative solution as an answer to such industrial demand. It involves a novel geometric modelling technique tailor-made for developable freeform mesh surfaces. 

The lengths of feature curves are preserved so that the seams on the end product will match perfectly. They also developed a prototyping system for modelling developable 3D freeform mesh surfaces, with the function of shape optimisation and computational flexibility. 

The system is applicable to apparel design, such as wet suit and compression performance clothing. Facial paper masks are all the rage in the skincare business. With the system, customised paper masks that fit a face perfectly can be easily produced. 

3d Hong Kong

High-speed high-definition LDNI-based 3D modelling

The term 3D printing has been a buzzword in various industries over the past couple years. Apart from 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), subtractive methods such as CNC tooling and milling are also common techniques of rapid prototyping. 

Traditionally, the CAD-CAM workflow begins with building geometric data into a 3D model, followed by generating 2D slices for motion control trajectories of material deposition paths or milling and tooling paths. The research team at CUHK invented a modelling technique and a slicing algorithm that generate 2D slices of 3D forms with complex topology and geometry in high resolutions. 

Unlike existing adaptive slicing on solid/surface models or tesellated (.stl) CAD models, their new modelling technique creates Booleaned LDNI solids. LDNI solid is a new representation with which the Boolean operations can be run in many parallel cores of a graphics processing unit simultaneously so that efficiency and accuracy are greatly improved.

The opportunities

CUHK is now looking for licensees from around the world to commercialise the technologies. The team is open to various options of collaborations including applying the technologies as plug-in modules for existing commercial CAD/CAM systems (such as SolidWorks) or as standalone systems.

Contact information: Laura Yu (email: laura.yu [at] isis.ox.ac.uk )

• This article is part of the “ITF Projects Commercialisation Programme” hosted by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) in conjunction with Isis Innovation, the technology transfer company of the University of Oxford. The programme aims to expose Hong Kong innovations to international audiences and hence, facilitate commercialisation via the network of Isis. For information on all projects in the programme, please visit

This project is organised by Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material/event (or by members of the project team) do not reflect the views of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Innovation and Technology Commission or the Vetting Committee of the General Support Programme of the Innovation and Technology Fund.

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