Not satisfied with designing the first appealing electric car, a rocket that can fly sideways and a revolutionary new form of high-speed travel, Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed his team’s latest invention via Twitter on Thursday. Musk developed a system of designing and manufacturing using that Musk thinks will revolutionize manufacturing in the 21st century.
Inspired by the “Iron Man” movies -- for which Musk actually inspired director Jon Favreau’s depiction of Tony Stark -- Musk developed a system that allows engineers to design complex parts using hand gestures through the air and instantly create it. The technology uses Leap Motion hands-free controllers, Oculus Rift virtual reality and 3D printing.
We figured out how to design rocket parts just w hand movements through the air (seriously). Now need a high frame rate holograph generator.
â€” Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 23, 2013
Will post video next week of designing a rocket part with hand gestures & then immediately printing it in titanium
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 23, 2013
Musk hinted at the technology Aug. 23 on Twitter and released a video Thursday:
“Right now we interact with computers in a very unnatural, sort of 2D way,” Musk said in the video. His design aims to make design more of an organic process.
The technology uses a Leap Motion Controller and technology from Siemens that SpaceX used to design the Merlin rocket. Musk’s team wrote some code to integrate the two and developed a system for controlling and manipulating wire frame designs in three dimensions using natural hand motions through the air.
What began as a fun project spawned an idea for manipulating full 3D CAD models. The team adapted the system for 3D projections wearing glasses and eventually to a free-standing glass projection like the kind seen I the “Iron Man” movies.
Musk then incorporated Oculus Rift, a virtual reality system originally developed for video games. Oculus Rift tracks head position, creating an immersive experience that makes the object feel like it is right there in front of the designer.
“If you can just go in there and do what you need to do, just understanding the fundamentals of how the things should work as opposed to figuring out to make the computer make it work, then you can achieve a lot more in a lot shorter period of time,” Musk said. “Really apply your intuition and take something from your mind to a physical object with far greater ease than we currently do.”
The CAD designs are the kind used in 3D printing, so as soon as an object is designed it can be created with a 3D printer.
“I believe we’re on the verge of a major breakthrough in designer manufacturing in being able to take the concept of something fro your mind, translate that into a 3D object really intuitively on the computer, and then take that virtual 3d object and make it real just by printing,” Musk said.
“It’s going to revolutionize DM in the 21st century.”