Nov 11, 2015 | By Alec

With the quality of especially industrial-level 3D printers increasing with leaps and bounds, professional designers are keen to 3D print more complex and realistic shapes. However – and very far away from the beds of us regular users – they are now being limited not by what the 3D printer can achieve, but by the capacity of the software side of the equation. Fortunately for them, a solution has come out of the hands of a team of MIT researchers. They just unveiled their Cilllia tool in a paper, a design platform that can generate 3D printable shapes as thin as hairs.

This fascinating Cilllia tool is the focus of a paper entitled ‘Method of 3D Printing Micro-pillar Structures on Surfaces’, by MIT researchers Jifei Ou, Chin-Yi Cheng, Liang Zhou, Gershon Dublon, and Hiroshi Ishii. As they explain in their paper, Cilllia is the answer to the limitations of CAD software when it comes to 3D printing objects such as animals with hair structures. ‘This is due to the lack of efficient digital representation of CAD model with fine surface texture. In the field of Computer Graphics, the standard way to represent surface texture is through lofting bitmaps on the CAD model to create an optical illusion. It is not an actual 3-dimensional structure,’ they explain.

This, however, doesn’t work well when pressing print. You could of course create thousands of individual hairs, but you’ll be mad or out of budget by the time the project is finished. ‘The data for describing the total geometry becomes extremely large and displaying such complex structure also takes a great deal of time,’ they say. And that’s where Cilllia comes in. ‘It allows a user to design and fabricate hair geometry that is smaller than 100 micron. We built a software platform to let one quickly define a hair's angle, thickness, density, and height,’ they write.

What’s more, they prove its viability by 3D printing a number of examples on the commercially available Autodesk Ember Printer, a Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D printer. The examples can be above and below, all created in UV light photopolymer on this 3D printer with a feature resolution of 50 µm on X and Y axis, and 25 µm on Z axis (build volume is 64 by 40 by 150 mm).

So how does Cilllia work? It’s a bottom-up 3D printing approach, they explain, that generates 3D printing layers of hair structures without all the custom work in CAD models. ‘Comparing to other surfaces texture such as wrinkle, hair is relatively simpler to generalize mathematically. It is usually a high aspect ratio cone that is vertical/angled to the surface. The height, thickness and profile might vary from one to another. As we know, the diameter of cone continuously decreases from the base to the tip. This method allows us to control hair printing,’ they write.

What’s more, they’ve even tested a number of application types for hair structures, such as on curved surfaces such as animals or flower models, or even on brushes with customized textures. They can even 3D print very dense hair that can tightly stick together through friction. All of these hairs can be fabricated at a resolution of just 50 umm, and the user can easily define thickness, density, and height. Cilllia, in short, seems to have all the necessary elements to greatly expand a designer’s 3D printing arsenal.



Posted in 3D Software



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