Shape Representation by Zippables

Christian Schüller, Roi Poranne, Olga Sorkine-Hornung

Shape Representation by Zippables

The pipeline of our approach. Starting from a 3D model, the user decomposes the shape into topological cylinders. Our algorithm automatically produces a single continuous curve on the shape that spirals along the cylinders. It proceeds to cut the shape along the curve and creates a developable surface that can be trivially unfolded into a single 2D shape -- the so called zippable. Based on the flattening, plans for laser cutting it from fabric are generated. Finally, we attach a zipper with a single slider to the boundary of the zippable. Zipping it up reproduces a faithful approximation of the input model.


Fabrication from developable parts is the basis for arts such as papercraft and needlework, as well as modern architecture and CAD in general, and it has inspired much research. We observe that the assembly of complex 3D shapes created by existing methods often requires first fabricating many small parts and then carefully following instructions to assemble them together. Despite its significance, this error prone and tedious process is generally neglected in the discussion. We present the concept of zippables -- single, two dimensional, branching, ribbon-like pieces of fabric that can be quickly zipped up without any instructions to form 3D objects. Our inspiration comes from the so-called zipit bags (, which are made of a single, long ribbon with a zipper around its boundary. In order to assemble the bag, one simply needs to zip up the ribbon. Our method operates in the same fashion, but it can be used to approximate a wide variety of shapes. Given a 3D model, our algorithm produces plans for a single 2D shape that can be laser cut in few parts from fabric or paper. A zipper can then be attached along the boundary by sewing, or by gluing using a custom-built fastening rig. We show physical and virtual results that demonstrate the capabilities of our method and the ease with which shapes can be assembled.


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We are currently working with a manufacturer to line up the fabrication for zippables similar to the examples shown in the paper. If you like to be informed on when they become available, or you have any question about this project, please leave us a message.

accompanying video

ETH Zurich Spark Award finalist


We are grateful to Oliver Glauser, Michael Rabinovich and Renana Poranne for invaluable discussions and help with the video. We would like to thank Isabelle von Salis, the tailors from and for their help with the fabrication of the prototypes. The work was supported in part by the ERC European Research Council ( under Grant No.: StG-2012-306877 (ERC Starting Grant iModel).