Kim, J., Guo, A., Yeh, T., Hudson, S. E., & Mankoff, J. (2017, June). Understanding Uncertainty in Measurement and Accommodating its Impact in 3D Modeling and Printing. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (pp. 1067-1078). ACM.

3D printing enables everyday users to augment objects around them with personalized adaptations. There has been a proliferation of 3D models available on sharing platforms supporting this. If a model is parametric, a novice modeler can obtain a custom model simply by entering a few parameters (e.g., in the Customizer tool on In theory, such custom models could fit any real world object one intends to augment. But in practice, a printed model seldom fits on the first try; multiple iterations are often necessary, wasting a considerable amount of time and material. We argue that parameterization or scaling alone is not sufficient for customizability, because users must correctly measure an object to specify parameters.

In a study of attempts to measure length, angle, and diameter, we demonstrate measurement errors as a significant (yet often overlooked) factor that adversely impacts the adaptation of 3D models to existing objects, requiring increased iteration. Images taken from our study are shown below.

We argue for a new design principle—accommodating measurement uncertainty—that designers as well as novices should begin to consider. We offer two strategies—modular joint and, buffer insertion—to help designers to build models that are robust to measurement uncertainty. Examples shown below.