Feb 6, 2016 | By Andre
Thingiverse is a website that just about anybody that’s into 3D printing will have at one point or another have explored. While doing so, there’s a good chance you'll have at some point stumbled upon a really cool organic looking design or two based on something called the Voronoi pattern.This is a pattern based on a partitioning of a plane into regions based on distance to to a specific subset of the plane.
Although complex in mathematical scope (and even difficult to put into words) the process of making your own parametric 3D printable design based on the Voronoi pattern is a relatively easy undertaking with the help of some readily available 3D modelling applications such as Autodesk Fusion 360 and the free to download Meshmixer. In fact, Adafruit has just recently put out the below easy to follow video tutorial that will guide you through the process of designing parametric 3D printable items based on the pattern.
When it comes to time investment, you’ll find most of your effort in creating the pattern revolves around designing the general shape of what you are hoping to transform into your parametric model. In this particular tutorial, the design is rounded and shelled to resemble the form of a lamp shade but you're welcome to test out the process with anything you want.
Once the 3D model you're hoping to convert using voronoi principles is complete, the real magic happens after opening it in the recently released version 3.0 of Meshmixer. To start, it's recommended that you deform the pattern a little with the “reduce brush”. This gives your design a more organic look while reducing polygon count. From there, all you need to do is find the “make pattern” option and select “dual edges” and click accept. A quick preview mode will allow you to make minor spacing and depth based modifications. After a few seconds of processing, you will have a 3D model complete with the Voronoi principles in place.
I should note, the automation process does round the bottom surface of your design (even if it was originally flat) a little so its important to flatten things out for 3D printing. This can be done very easily in Meshmixer by using the “plane cut” function. Once complete, its best to make sure your model is watertight (necessary for 3D printing) by flat filling the design as found in the inspector portion of Meshmixer. I gave the process a shot myself using the sample bunny 3D model available in the program and I had results in just a few minutes with no hassle at all.
From here on out, all you need to do is export the STL file and load it into your 3D printer software. One of the advantages to the pattern, and part of the reason it’s become so popular in the 3D printing community, is that support structures don’t need to be turned on because of the rounded nature of the overhangs.
If you’re interested in parametric patterns like the Voronoi based 3D printable file just discussed, I recommend taking a look at the works of Jessica Rosenkranz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg over at Nervous System. They’ve been promoting applications and designs revolving around the concept for use in art, jewelry, housewares and more since 2007.
It's quick and powerful features like these are what’s making Meshmixer such a hit with the 3D printing community. So next time you’re thinking of a nice 3D printed gift for someone, putting your design through this process will surely impress anyone on the receiving end.
Posted in 3D Design
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