Student creates physical interface for 3D modelling: TAC.TILES

We asked the creator of a new 3D modelling interface about his design project.

Belgian product design student Simon Van Pottelbergh has designed a physical interface for 3D modelling and 3D printing called ‘TAC.TILES’.

The modular interface is designed to enhance user experience via physical interaction. The project eliminates the need for virtual interfaces. He explains the name TAC.TILES relates to the tactile nature of the device and the fact the modules act as tiles joined together.

Simon Van Pottelbergh studies at the LUCA School of Arts in Belgium and the TAC.TILES design was part of his graduation project. However, Van Pottelbergh does believe the design has potential to be a real product in the future.

The TAC.TILES modular device. Photo via Simon Van Pottelbergh.
The TAC.TILES modular device. Photo via Simon Van Pottelbergh.

3D modelling

Designing 3D models can be a fiddly process with a keyboard and mouse operating a graphical interface on a computer screen. Simon’s idea is to bring these interfaces into the physical world in order to provide a more simplistic user experience. Van Pottelbergh refers to this as a physical barrier between designers and their designs.

The student hopes with TAC.TILES the experience can be more intuitive and believes the device has particular application in creating lots of shapes very quickly as is the architectural process of form-finding.

Using the interface. Photo via Simon Von Pottelbergh.
Using the interface. Photo via Simon Van Pottelbergh.

3D modelling with 3D printing

Simon’s TAC.TILES design was itself 3D printed. He used an Ultimaker 3 to produce the frames for the modules and also the physical buttons and knobs. He explains these were cut with a laser cutter and coated with a rubber finish. Simon is due to graduate in the coming weeks and explains his choice of fabrication technique,

In my student projects I always liked to implement some form of technology in order to solve problem. Although I studied product design my main focus was on technological innovation in products. The past two years I’ve become extremely interested in 3D modelling and printing.

Close-up of Simon's design. Photo via Simon Van Pottelbergh.
Close-up of Simon’s design. Photo via Simon Van Pottelbergh.

Modular interface

Thanks to its modular design, the system can be remapped or reconfigured depending on personal preference. It has 15 different modules which can be mapped for different uses and allow users to pull, push, twist and bend. In addition, the number of modules can be reduced if preferred so as to maximise efficiency.

Van Pottelbergh explains the modular design is aided by magnetic USB ports which allow for straightforward setup and connection.

Simon Van Pottelberghs TAC.TILES device.

Future of 3D modelling

3D modelling has experienced a spark in popularity recently resulting from a greater demand for 3D imagery. This perhaps a consequence of virtual and augmented reality’s subsequent rise in prevalence and with this increase in demand, new methods for 3D designing will appear. Simon believes his device may have a place in this expanding market alongside other methods such as designing in virtual reality. Asked whether he envisages the design becoming a product in the future, he said,

Right now It’s just a prototype but I would like to see it becoming a real product. In order to accomplish this I’m currently looking for partners and manufacturers who are interested in this kind of technology and willing to bring this concept to life.

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All images, including featured image via Simon Van Pottelbergh.