3D-printed Christmas trees promise greener festive future

15 Dec 2014

Computing science professor Richard Zhang holds a 3D-printed traditional Christmas tree (right) with his new design shown on the left. Image via Phys.org/SFU

A new algorithm created for 3D printers could pave the way for 3D-printed Christmas trees, meaning a potential greener future to celebrate the festive period.

The algorithm created by Richard Zhang, a computing science professor from Simon Fraser University in Canada, is the first of its kind in the world as it automatically decomposes a 3D object into pyramidal parts, as reported by Phys.org.

The pyramidal shape with its flat base is considered optimal and the most environmentally friendly of designs because it incurs no material waste and takes much less time to create than non-pyramidal designs.

The research team, just in time for Christmas, showed how the algorithm can save material and time by creating the familiar shape of the Christmas tree without the need to layer extra plastic to support the overhang, which is considered the most laborious and wasteful part of the process.

To solve problem, the algorithm simply breaks up the process into three different pyramidal parts which can then be glued on top of one another, leaving little to no waste.

While currently only making miniature models of Christmas trees, Zhang has suggested the algorithm could still have other future festive applications, including creating molds for chocolate Christmas trees or even chocolate reindeer.

The process of creating the algorithm was not easy however, as Zhang explains, “Coming up with a practical algorithm to decompose 3D objects into the smallest possible number of pyramidal parts was quite a challenge. Importantly, it is impractical for most real-world objects to be broken into exactly pyramidal parts since this would result in too many parts.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic