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Knowing the exact physical properties of a 3D print job before it is carried out would be incredibly useful for designers and manufacturers making use of 3D printing technology, enabling them to know exactly which materials to choose to optimize their 3D printed object. A group of researchers at MIT have recently developed an ingenious new software system that will allow these properties to be calculated in a hugely reduced time frame, making use of an advanced physical simulation.
The system was designed by Bo Zhu, a postdoc at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), along with Wojciech Matusik, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science; Mélina Skouras, a postdoc in Matusik’s group; and Desai Chen, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science. Their work was supported by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s SIMPLEX program, and they presented a paper on it recently at Siggraph, the major international graphics conference.
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“Conventionally, people design 3-D prints manually,” says Bo Zhu. “But when you want to have some higher-level goal — for example, you want to design a chair with maximum stiffness or design some functional soft [robotic] gripper — then intuition or experience is maybe not enough. Topology optimization, which is the focus of our paper, incorporates the physics and simulation in the design loop. The problem for current topology optimization is that there is a gap between the hardware capabilities and the software. Our algorithm fills that gap.”
The average 3D printer’s resolution is around 600 dots per inch, which means that a billion tiny cubes of material can be packed into 1.67 cubic inches of volume. This means that it would be prohibitively time-consuming to calculate the physical effects of every combination of just 2 materials. The innovation of Zhu and his team...
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