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Video: Watch an Outdoor Rock Climbing Wall be Replicated Indoors Using 3-D Modeling and Digital Fabrication

13 May 2017

The crux of an outdoor climbing route that was recreated indoors. Image credit: Dartmouth University The crux of an outdoor climbing route that was recreated indoors. Image credit: Dartmouth University

A team of researchers at Dartmouth College created an indoor climbing wall based on popular outdoor rock climbing routes in a study to reproduce large-scale environments.

The researchers were able to create the wall using a combination of 3-D modeling, digital fabrication and other techniques. They took the most challenging sections, or cruxes, of two expert outside climbing sites in New Hampshire’s “Things As They Are Now” and Utah’s “Pilgrimage” and focused on each crux that the climber used to ascend, as fabricating the entire crux would be too costly.

The team used 3-D reconstruction of the rock walls using multi-view stereo and video of climbers’ ascent to capture where support for the body and skeletal poses would best be suited. This information was critical because it showed where the shapes of the holds should be and where they would need to be fastened to the indoor wall, researchers say.

Once the holds were in place, the team used rapid prototyping, molding and casting techniques to create the holds found similar in those at indoor climbing gyms. The holds were first fabricated out of foam using a CNC router then later strengthened with resin.

“We're bridging between large-scale and small-scale fabrication. By fabricating only key pieces of the rock face, we're able to recreate outdoor environments without the need for oversized gantries or other non-standard manufacturing equipment,” says Emily Whiting, an assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth College.

Dartmouth hopes to use the indoor wall as inspiration for future environmental-scale fabrication as well as related scientific and technological questions such as measuring and replicating friction properties of natural materials. The university also hopes to study the biomechanics of human locomotion in challenging conditions.

The entire research study was published in the 35th Annual ACM CHI Conference proceedings.

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