Believe it or not, Disney has a team of researchers at its disposal that do more than just make that robot Lincoln seem more lifelike. The team’s latest research involves a custom algorithm it created that can turn any 3D model, even one that’s oddly-shaped and asymmetrical, into a perfectly-balanced spinning top by simply creating empty cavities inside the model to perfectly distribute its weight.
Once a solid 3D model has been imported into the custom application, the user specifies an axis of rotation, and the software automatically generates empty voids inside the model to ensure that it’s perfectly balanced and will spin like a top. In the event the size of the model doesn’t allow large enough cavities to be added, the software can also deform the model as necessary to achieve a perfect balance, or even switch up the 3D printing material to something that’s lighter or heavier as needed.
On the surface, the research doesn’t seem like it has too many practical applications outside of creating fun Mickey toys for a Disneyland gift shop. But 3D printing is being used more and more to make complex machines or even replacement parts, and ensuring the gears of a motor are perfectly balanced can help it run more efficiently, or simply ensure it doesn’t tear itself to pieces when switched on.