MIT Researchers Streamline Multi-Material Printing
Kyle Maxey posted on July 25, 2013 |
New software makes printing multi material objects much faster and easier

A new piece of software could improve 3D printing by making multi-material prints easier to create.

Although printers capable of creating multi-material 3D objects have been around for a while, the software that takes your model and turns it into a print has been slow and hard to use. In an effort to make multi-material 3D printing faster and easier, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have created “OpenFab: A Programmable Pipeline for Multi-Material Fabrication”.

One of the biggest issues when printing complex surfaces has always been the fact that, before a model makes it to the printer, it has to be digested by software that can turn terabytes of geometric data into printer readable code. In the past, printers didn’t begin their work until the entire print job had been resolved.  That can lead to a monstrous backlog.

To solve this problem Kiril Vidimče, and his team at CSAIL, have created a software package that can stream data to the printer on-demand. This means that as regions of a model are resolved they can be printed without having to wait for the entire model to be completed.

"Our software pipeline makes it easier to design and print new materials and to continuously vary the properties of the object you are designing," explained Vidimče. "In traditional manufacturing most objects are composed of multiple parts made out of the same material. With OpenFab, the user can change the material consistency of an object, for example designing the object to transition from stiff at one end to flexible and compressible at the other end."

In addition to their pipeline software, the team also created a new methodology for producing a near infinite number of complex material arrangements in a single model. Called Spec2Fab, the algorithm replaces the old method of manually selecting a material for each region on a print and replaces it with a “reducer tree” system to determine the best material composition for a model.

Later today, the MIT team will present their paper at SIGGRAPH and will show off some of the remarkable models they’ve created using their new 3D printing algorithms.

Watch an Explanation of MIT’s Spec2Fab Program:

Image and Video Courtesy of MIT CSAIL

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