A 3D printer is another tool that is making amazing things easier. This article describes work by a Harvard Uni team who have created software to easily print pose-able figures from their animation software, even animating creatures created in free form design games.
This team of computer graphics experts developed a software tool that achieves two things: it identifies the ideal locations for the action figure’s joints, based on the character’s virtual articulation behavior, and then it optimizes the size and location of those joints for the physical world. For instance, a spindly arm might be too thin to hold a robust joint, and the joints in a curving spine might collide with each other if they are too close.
The software uses a series of optimization techniques to generate the best possible model, incorporating both hinges and ball-and-socket joints. It also builds some friction into these surfaces so that the printed figure will be able to hold its poses.