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Physics Based Modeling

Q in search of A: is there software that is intelligent enough to model the transformation of a flat shape to a 3D form based on material characteristics?


Maintaining the integrity of the original flat shape is key. I suppose such a transformation will be based—in part—on characteristics of the physical material, paper, plastic, aluminum, any sheet material.


a drawing that attempts to describe the general process that i’m in search of … a sort of reverse unfolding . . . flat-to-3D …  pulling an edge of a flat shape into a new position in 3D space, resulting in a 3D model of the transformation:

photos of physical models

Deformation of a Shape?

In fact its not unusual for those of us that build physical models from sheet materials, to then need a means of moving the geometry of that model into 3D software. In my case, the model is often of a single component that will multiply and scale throughout a sculpture. I develop polycarbonate and aluminum models from hand, laser or waterjet cut sheet materials that are then bent and folded. In order to visualize the concept of a sculpture that is composed of what are numerous folded and bent 2D shapes, I’m looking for software that will allow me to re-form the bends and folds based on physical properties/behavior of a particular sheet material.


objective: deforming a shape (2D) into form (3D) while maintaining the definition of its original shape

file attached to note is of the two shapes shown here:

letterform created in Illustrator (exported as dxf) and imported to ViaCAD Pro. integrity of shape maintained.

same letterform / same dxf imported to TouchCAD:

same .dxf letterform imported to Strata Design CX, converted to mesh.  (mesh edges can be added as prep for bending in TouchCAD.)

quote from Mårten Nettelbladt:


“I’m looking at the type of bending that is elastic (not plastic), meaning the material will spring back to its original shape when the force is released. Most materials break or deform permanently before they can reach an ‘elastic and beautiful curve’, but I think all ‘elastic deformation’ follow the same principals and therefore the same geometry.”