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Protopiper Prints Tape Tubes for 3D Sketches: Tubeframe

by Lambert Varias
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Handheld 3D printers like the 3Doodler are easy and fun to use, but they’re suited for small sketches. That’s why a group of Hasso Plattner Institut (HPI) students came up with the Protopiper (pdf), a unique tape dispenser.

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Made by Harshit Agrawal, Udayan Umapathi, Robert Kovacs, Frohnhofen Johannes, Hsiang-Ting Chen, Stefanie Mueller and Patrick Baudisch, the Protopiper dispenses hollow tubes made of adhesive tape. Since the tubes are lightweight and sturdy, you can use them to make life-size mockups and other large objects within a few minutes.

Protopiper uses guides and stencils to turn a flat strip from a roll of adhesive tape into a tube. It then sticks the tube’s edges together to seal it, then an electrically heated wire cuts the tube.

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protopiper_3d_tape_dispenser_by_Harshit_Agrawal_Udayan_Umapathi_Robert_Kovacs_Frohnhofen_Johannes_Hsiang-Ting_Chen_Stefanie_Mueller_Patrick_Baudisch_9zoom in

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At the press of a button, the Protopiper can equip an extruded tube’s tip with “wing connectors” – two patches of tape on either side of the tip that lets you stick it other tubes or surfaces.

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To speed things up, you can store up to three tube lengths – A, B and C – in Protopiper’s memory. You then switch between the stored lengths using a small knob near the trigger. But the knob actually has six positions; switching to one of the three in-between positions – AB, AC and BC – results in a tube length that fits the diagonal of the respective stored lengths.

protopiper_3d_tape_dispenser_by_Harshit_Agrawal_Udayan_Umapathi_Robert_Kovacs_Frohnhofen_Johannes_Hsiang-Ting_Chen_Stefanie_Mueller_Patrick_Baudisch_4zoom in

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It seems a lot of fun to use, but is it a tool or a toy? For instance, do the mockups above really give you a great idea of what the actual furniture will look like? I think an augmented reality app would be more helpful in that case. On the other hand, if you want measurements, then a measuring tape would be more efficient. I think it would make for a great construction toy though, assuming it’s cheaper than existing ones like LEGO. You can read the group’s full paper at HPI’s website (pdf).

[via Devour]

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