Design 3D-Printed Wearables by Pinching and Poking On-Skin Projections

Design 3D-Printed Wearables by Pinching and Poking On-Skin Projections

Tactum is an augmented modeling tool that lets users manipulate images on their body via gesture to create ready-to-print Moto 360 watch bands and ready-to-wear medical braces

Vashti Hallissey

Madeline Gannon, head of Pennsylvania-based design collective MADLAB.CC, has created a 3D printing concept that uses the body as a canvas and gestures as design tools.

The project was developed in collaboration with Autodesk Research and with support from the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. Gannon tells PSFK:

Tactum bypasses the traditional trial-and-error design process, and lets you use your own body as an input surface for crafting wearables. It recognizes natural, tactile gestures on the body—for example, poking, rubbing, pinching—to customize the digital design that’s projected onto your body. Since this digital geometry is generated from your unique body, designs created through Tactum will inherently fit when 3D printed.


Tactum extracts features from the user’s body to create an interactive digital geometry that is projected onto the skin. This takes the form of bands of light on the user’s arm, which is otherwise in darkness.


By touching these on-skin projections, the user can manipulate their shapes and design a personalized wearable. For example, they can pinch a projection to alter its thickness, drag projections to change their position or run their finger along a set of bands of light, stopping in-between to to create an empty space.


Once they are satisfied with a design, users can access bespoke ready-to-print and ready-to-wear wearables.

The system works through depth sensing and projection mapping, which detect touch gestures on the skin.


When using the Tactum to create a new watch band for the Moto 360 Smartwatch, skin gestures could be used to craft the overall form, while CAD (Computer-Aided Design) would create the precise geometries needed for the clips and clasp. Gannon explains:

Striking a balance between these flexible and precise parameters means that users can intuitively customize the design to their aesthetic desires, but that the wearable will also work as a functional object once fabricated.


MADLAB.CC has also developed a prototype of a medical wrist brace, Gannon tells PSFK:

Tactum records the user as they rub the areas of their arm where they feel the most pain. The system then generates a brace with a support structure that grows more densely where the user indicated (in the pain areas), and less densely elsewhere. Once generated, the brace can immediately be 3D printed and worn.

In trials, the team has created wearables made from different types of materials, modeling modes, and fabrication machines. These include a nylon and rubber print made from a Selective-Laser Sinter (SLS) 3D printer and a ‘furry’ print made from a Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer.


The MADLAB.CC team plans to extend the wearables to other areas of the body in the future, Gannon explains:

While Tactum currently focuses on the arm, we are particularly excited to adapt these techniques to prosthetic and footwear design. These two domains have incredibly intriguing challenges for on-body gestural design: they first and foremost need to be functional wearables, but they should also be imbued with the personality and aesthetics of the wearer.

At PSFK we are seeing a lot of innovation in gesture control and 3D printing. Recently, we’ve covered a gesture-controlled frame that turns your wall into a mini museum, gesture-controlled stones that help people with physical challenges, and a range of 3D printing innovations, including 3D-printed prosthetics and 3D-printed fashion.

Tactum_v1 _Parametric_3D_Print.jpg

The Tactum combines these two burgeoning areas, pointing toward a future in which we will be able to design our own wearables and other items through gesture alone. This could make the creative process for 3D printed design more accessible, as it will rely on touch and intuitive movements rather than technical know-how.


Images and video courtesy of MADLAB.CC

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