An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from an article at Geek.com "A team of computer scientists at Harvard University have developed a piece of software that allows anyone to 3D print their own action figures at home. Not only will the models carry the likeness of the character, they will also be fully articulated. The software can take an animated 3D character and figure out where best to place its joints. In what is referred to as reverse rendering, the software first looks at an animated character's shape and movement and identifies the best joint points (original paper, paywalled). It then adjusts the size of the different parts of the model so as to allow a real joint to work once printed. Optimizations are then carried out to produce a model as close as possible to the on-screen version, but at the same time workable as an actual real-world, articulated 3D model."
The bad news: Harvard is patenting everything and wants to commercialize it on a proprietary basis. The good news: An anonymous reader pointed toward the paper in full