I am a computer graphics researcher who primarily work with 3D models. About 15 years ago, people said that 3D was going to be the next Big Thing and the internet would be the reason. Anyone still remembers VRML and the buzz that came with it? Unfortunately, 3D has not really become a Big Thing so far; it is bigger but still not a Big Thing. Along the way, image and video data got much much bigger. If people talk about "Big Visual Data" now, they are not referring to 3D models.
Today, 3D content creation is still a huge bottleneck. Even people who specialize in 3D modeling and content creation question whether there is really going to be a huge demand for 3D models ever.
Last July (2013), a visiting student of mine, Ruizhen Hu, and I just wanted to find an intriguing geometry problem to solve. We stumbled up a criterion for geometric simplicity which we called pyramidality. We immediately realized its relevance to FDM-based 3D printing. Now our work on approximate pyramidal decomposition has appeared in SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 and has been receiving some news and media coverage.
It got me thinking, maybe 3D printing will be the reason for 3D to truly become a Big Thing!
After pyramidal decomposition, I worked on another cool project called Dapper, where DAP stands for "decompose-and-pack"; it is a highly challenging geometry problem and also related to efficient 3D printing; here are some visual results including 3D prints. Lately, we are into spirals. I will keep it a secret for now as to why spirals are relevant to 3D printing! :)
In summer 2016, I will teach a special topics course at SFU on 3D printing.
In the following, I maintain a random collection of relevant links. The collection serves as a resource that would help me motivate and design the course. If you are interested in any aspects of this page or have any thoughts you would like to share, please email me. I also suggest that you join twitter and follow "3D Printing News" and "3D Printing Fan", etc.