When it comes to additive manufacturing there are many different types of technology that can be used. On the spectrum of 3D printing, voxel printing technology is probably as far away from filament strands and vats of goo as you can get. Voxel printing allows users to actually program the product material and its viscosity on a microscopic level. This results in both incredible control over color for visually stunning results and incredible control over material properties allowing for new and exciting composite materials. In this blog, we'll look at what Voxel printing is and how it is currently helping engineers who are embracing this technology.
What is a Voxel?
You know what a pixel is right? It is a small dot of digital color, and when combined with a bunch of other pixels, creates colors and patterns on your 2D digital screen. Everything you're reading right now on this blog is make up of pixels.
You can think of a voxel in a similar way, but in a 3D space. The word "voxel" actually comes from the term "volumetric pixel". Much in the same way pixels can be combined to make colors and patterns, voxels can be combined to do the same. However, because voxels exist in a three-dimensional space, they can also be given physical properties. This means you not only can control the color, but you can now control how flexible or rigid your material is.
What is GrabCAD Voxel Print?
Put simply, GrabCAD Voxel Print from Stratasys allows users to control the physical characteristics of their 3D printed models down to the individual voxel level by leveraging the properties of PolyJet printing. This software gives users the capability to create higher resolution, complex, and sophisticated prints with multi-material control.
PolyJet technology dispenses droplets of curable resin onto a build plate layer by layer. This process is similar to how your standard inkjet printer works except that it builds up. This creates much finer layer heights that measure 14 microns. That’s thinner than the average human hair!
Exact-Match Color Mapping
With this feature you can design and print models that are identical in form and color to the original. This can save you valuable time and headaches from having to go back and match precise details.
Interior Properties Control
This control allows you to generate distinct interior contrast deep into the model. New possibilities are right around the corner with this new control in the software by adding a new layer of features for you to explore. For example, with the new Interior Properties Control you can now recreate the diffusion of water molecules.
Fabrication-Aided Design/Digital Material Management
GrabCAD Print also enables users to integrate multiple geometry-based data sources and control of material property distribution. This feature is putting the control in the engineer's hands. You no longer have to be limited by the materials because Stratasys is now able to put you in control.
Benefits and Applications of Voxel Printing
Many leaders in innovation, including those at Columbia, MIT, Fraunhoefer Institute, Singapore University of Technology and Duke University, are currently using this new design consideration.
Most recently, a pair of designers at the MIT Media Lab used the Stratasys J8 series of printers to create amazing new lenticular lens designs which have traditionally been limited to a two-dimensional space.
Even film studios like Laika are leveraging the technology to change the way movies are made. The Laika team, specifically their rapid prototyping department, were able to change the facial characteristics of the puppet for many of their recent films by utilizing multi-material 3D printed facial parts that were printed using Voxel Print technology. This resulted in higher resolution parts with realism and consistency.
Aaron Pearson, VP of Public Relations for Stratasys, summed it up well in saying, "Imagine if you could design and fabricate from the bottom up, with pure control over the microscopic properties of the materials you are using. From art with photorealistic color to models of the body that look and feel real to 3D printed materials that mimic traditional building materials of brick or wood, we can draw on those strengths with a new aesthetic that puts CGI to shame."
With the capabilities of Voxel Print and PolyJet 3D printers, MIT Media Lab designers saw the potential to innovate. See what they came up with in the case study "The Future of Design: Voxel Print and PolyJet Technology"