Oct 11, 2016 | By Tess

There is little doubt that one of the most promising new directions of 3D printing technologies is multi-material 3D printing. And while it is in its relatively early stages, new advancements and developments are pushing the potentials of multi-material printing further and further. Recently, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has made a huge step in the field through the development of Foundry, a 3D modeling tool geared specifically to multi-material printing.

Dubbed the “Photoshop for 3D materials,” the Foundry system is aimed at making the process of printing complex multi-material 3D models more accessible through a user-friendly interface and a number of unprecedented features. Essentially, the tool will allow makers, designers, and engineers to print more complex properties that are optimized for multi-material 3D printers such as MIT’s MultiFab printer. This includes designing objects made of “new composite materials that have optimal mechanical, thermal, and conductive properties...”

PhD student Kiril Vidimče, the first author of the Foundry research project, explains: “In traditional manufacturing, objects made of different materials are manufactured via separate processes and then assembled with an adhesive or another binding process. Even existing multi-material 3D printers have a similar workflow: parts are designed in traditional CAD systems one at a time and then the print software allows the user to assign a single material to each part.” The Foundry, for its part, will enable users to play with and set the material properties of a given section at a very fine resolution.

How does it work? Basically, users will design their object as usual in a 3D modeling software and then import it into the Foundry tool, which can then be used to determine and map out the object’s material composition through an “operator graph”, which includes up to 100 operators (or fine-tuned actions, as CSAIL explains). Using the many operators, users can subdivide, remap, or even assign different materials to various parts of their model. Foundry even allows for users to customize whether they want a clean separation between materials or if they want tge divide between materials to be more gradual.

Other features offered by Foundry include real time viewing,  mix and matching any combination of materials, and assigning custom properties to varying parts of the 3D printable object. As CSAIL explains, “if you want to make a cube that is both rigid and elastic, you would assign a “rigid operator” to make one part rigid and an “elastomer operator” to the other part elastic; a third “gradient operator” connects the two and introduces a gradual transition between materials.”

So far, the MIT team has successfully designed and 3D printed a ping-pong paddle, skis with retro-reflective surfaces, a tricycle wheel, a helmet, and an artificial bone to demonstrate what Foundry is capable of. Evidently, being able to control your object’s material properties down to a very fine resolution is exceptionally advantageous, so the applications for the new 3D modeling tool are vast, to say the least. Such uses include printing realistic feeling bones and body parts for surgeons to pre-operate and train with, and printing more comfortable and optimized medical devices such as dentures, to name but a few.

According to Vidimče, the team hopes that Foundry will not only be integrated into CAD workflows but will also be further developed by the designer community which will advance and expand on the program’s operators. “The user should be able to iterate on the material composition in a similar manner to how they iterate on the geometry of the part being designed,” he explains. “Integrating physics simulations to predict the behavior of the part will allow rapid iteration on the final design.”

The Foundry research project was co-authored by MIT Professor Wojciech Matusik, PhD student Alexandre Kaspar, and Ye Wang, students from Matusik's Computational Fabrication Group. The research was realized with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Len wrote at 10/12/2016 4:01:46 AM:

Next is to figure out how to up-cycle the item, if that even possible.

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