Jan 29, 2015 | By Alec

For most of us desktop 3D printing nuts, working with a limited budget, 3D modelling software can at times be tricky. Do you stick to the limited stuff you know, or do you upgrade to an expensive alternative, that is doubtlessly time-consuming to get to grips with, and might not be satisfactory? Fortunately, we’ve been seeing more and more excellent and free software alternatives having been appearing, and we can now add another to that line-up: Monolith.

This interesting piece of software was developed by Panagiotis Michalatos, assistant professor of architecture at the Harvard School of Design, and Andrew Payne, a graduate from the Harvard School of Design and a veteran software creator. With their free-to-download Monolith software, they are seeking to tackle a few shortcomings in the 3D modelling software we use on a daily basis.

Some creations made with Monolith.

For unlike most of the usual software options that you always come across, Monolith adds a few new options to the designer’s arsenal. In a nutshell, it's a volume modelling software, a type of hybrid of 3D CAD software and a regular 3D image editing program, that focusses on voxel manipulation. For the uninitiated, a voxel is basically a 3D pixel. As the Monolith developers explain it, ‘the word voxel is short for volumetric pixel.  Much like a pixel, which describes the attributes (like color) of an element within a larger composition (an image); a voxel can describe attributes about a physical location within a 3D volume. These attributes can include information about its material properties, density, color, and more.’

 

This piece of voxel-manipulation software has been especially developed for 3D printing, to provide designers with a wider range of values to tinker with. While most modelling programs are unable to manipulate spatial variations in various materials, Monolith can do just that through voxel manipulation. As its designers argue, current design programs are limited to a paradigm focussed on surface modelling, ‘where a 'solid' object is defined as an object enclosed by a set of discrete boundaries. This is known as Boundary Representation or Brep for short.  But, what makes voxels really interesting is that it offers a new paradigm where objects are defined as a dense representation of material properties throughout a 3D volume.

 

They have therefore developed a program capable of distinguishing between two different voxel values, one denoting the boundary between the solid and the void, and the other the mixing ratio of two different materials. Manipulating these values, through controlling points, lines curves and boxes, you can create all sorts of additional design effects or, to put it technically, allow you to ‘define rasterization patterns with variable degrees of optical and elastic anisotropy.’

These options, or so they argue, are perfect for users of high-quality industrial 3D printers capable of working with different print heads and resins in a single build volume, though it can be quite useful for a regular 3D printing enthusiast too. ‘All of this means you now have greater control over how your designs will look, feel, and function.’ It also easily works together with other types of modelling software, by being able to work with mesh files in a number of formats, including STL, VRML 2.0 (or WRL files), and Rhino (3DM) files.

Monolith is, to keep a long story short, a very valuable piece of software that provides you with a very large number of options for manipulating the building blocks of your designs, though it won’t serve any purpose to list of them here. Instead, it’s best to simply download it and see for yourself. You can download it from this location, though you can best keep this introductory guide close by before getting lost in a maze of possibilities. It will definitely be a valuable addition to every serious 3D modeller’s arsenal, though I doubt it will be very useful to the occasional tinkerers among us.  

Below you can see a clip of Monolith being used to generate a voxel field. More example clips can be found on the Monolith website here.

 

Posted in 3D Software

 

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Roger wrote at 7/11/2015 1:26:09 PM:

Hi, I have stl file and I want to load it in Monolith. How can I convert it to vol file . Thank you.

James G wrote at 5/9/2015 12:29:07 PM:

This voxel modelling seems very interesting and is the first i've heard of it. Is there likely to be more CAD type solutions, with the option for specific measurements implemented, with this new form of modelling? -Thank you

willi wrote at 1/31/2015 4:42:34 AM:

Neat, thanks

Luis Rodriguez wrote at 1/29/2015 4:36:13 PM:

This software might be awesome to try with a ChefJet!



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