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.
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.
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.
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.
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).