Blending and Bending Prosthetic Leg Fairings

From Kinect scan to laser cutting


Opened the original scan in Blender, selected the portion of the scan we’re concerned with. Separated it from the rest of the mesh and exported as stl.


Used Netfabb to repair the mesh and cut into a top and bottom portion.


Found out netfabb decimates the mesh upon export, from 27000 triangles to 24000 triangles, and manages to make it pretty rough, so it looks like this in 123D Make.


Inspected the files before and after repairing in Netfabb…



Used MeshLab’s Filters → Remeshing → Surface Reconstruction to “Shrinkwrap” the model and fill in gaps and holes without losing the smoothness of the scan.




Used this guide to split the part in two using Blender’s newish “Bisect” function.


Played around with different options in 123D Make…



Drew a circle in Blender against the scanned cLeg and stool, confirmed that the units of the scan are in meters. (The circle is .355 units wide and in real life the stools are too.) But, since many programs interpret these STL units as mm, our objects are 1000 times too small. Let’s scale them up.


Settled on a slicing pattern in 123D Make. Used the Modify Form feature to hollow out the leg and picked out the Radial Slices construction technique. The arrangement has some collisions at the bottom, but I don’t want a closed model anyway, so will do some hand-tuning in Inkscape. Exported the model to Blender to check that the cLeg would sit inside it okay.



Using Inkscape to layout the the pieces onto less than 4 sheets of plywood… (nesting is apparantly a difficult problem for computers, and not one that many softwares implement, certainly not free ones. just have to eyeball it)

123D Make is sadistic and exports the objects as groups of thousands of lines instead of a single vector, so editing the exported PDF is really really slow. (It takes 20 seconds to select a text object and type in a new number. I counted.) Learned things:


On the left: the highlighted list of numbers 4,000 characters long describes a single path. On the right side, two coordinates of a single line segment are surrounded by markup. The file containing 2 objects takes 73 lines of text. The file exported by 123D Make takes up 6151 lines of text for the same object. Inkscape modifies this information in memory every time you move something.

Inkscape operates with SVG, which is plain text, ASCII, one character equals one byte. When a path is exported as 677 individual paths, each one of those line segments has 8 lines of markup surrounding it in the SVG file (between the g tags, with information for position and stroke and fill attributes). So what could be saved (and manipulated in memory) as 20 bytes if it was appended to the list of nodes in a single path instead takes 389 bytes to be kept in memory as a standalone object.

I found this forum post describing how to select all the separate objects, Path → Combine them into a single object, and in node edit mode you can select all nodes and click Join Selected Nodes and it simply merges overlapping nodes. Hallelujah!

So to downsize the files enough that they’re not a pain to work with:

Open the PDF. I learned that if you check the “import via Poppler” option Inkscape can detect the colors of the stroke (otherwise imported PDFs have “undefined” color unless you adjust it yourself). So check that box. CtrlA, CtrlU to ungroup everything. Click a blue line segment. Edit →Select Same →Stroke Color. Path →Combine. F2 (Edit Paths by Node). CtrlA. Wait for a minute. Join Selected Nodes (one of the buttons in the node edit toolbar, 3rd from the left, just after the delete node button. It might take a few minutes for Inkscape to chew on this one. It will probably become unresponsive. Let it do its thing. In my case this trimmed the file size by 97% and I could then translate and rotate and rearrange the objects without any lag.

Two hours later…have my minified cut file, fitting on 1.5 sheets instead of 4. I’ve trimmed the tops and bottoms off the vertical slices so the end result will be open.



20 minutes of lasering + 10 minutes of assembling: Hey I made a thing!




Met up with Shawna and learned the design constraints: how the leg has to move, what areas can’t be covered, etc. We picked out a pattern she wouldn’t mind having wrapped around her leg:


I took a few measurements of the wooden positives and drew the outer shape of the fairing in inkscape by hand (using auto-smooth of course!). A few booleans later I had my cut file, which took about 20 minutes apiece. To get the part ready to shape against the mold, I stuck it in our convection oven to bake at 300F for about 5 minutes (don’t worry, we keep one oven for circuit boards and plastics and a different oven for foods 🙂



So the process was: semi-soften the plastic in the oven, then roughly fold it over the wooden form, then stick the whole wooden form in the oven. If you let it soften all the way when it’s sitting on the metal it’ll stick to the metal. Better to have it roughly on the wood form when it reaches maximum droopiness. When it’s as soft as rubber, we take it out and push the plastic against the form, holding it in place as it cools.



I’m pretty happy with the second prototype. I think the next step is 3D printing some bracket system, and maybe taking more time to plan out how the plastic will fold against the form — this was pretty heavily eyeballed.




Continued with a rough prototype of a bracket here:

https://medium.com/p/4b64424ed04c

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