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MIT looks to movie CGI to make 3D printing easy

Lucas Mearian | July 24, 2013
New open-source software can address 3D computational challenges.

This video from MIT shows how Spec2Fab can streamline the 3D printing process.

In order to create lifelike objects that are hard, soft, reflect light and conform to touch, users must currently specify the material composition of the object they wish to replicate. That's no easy task, as it's often easier to define the desired end-state of an object -- for example, saying that it needs to be soft -- than to determine which materials should be used to make it.

To simplify the process, Matusik and the other researchers developed a new methodology called Spec2Fab. Instead of requiring explicit design specifications for each region of a print, and testing every possible combination, Spec2Fab employs a "reducer tree" that breaks the object down into more manageable chunks. Spec2Fab's "tuner network" then uses the reducer tree to automatically determine the material composition of an object.

By combining existing computer graphics algorithms, Matusik's team has used Spec2Fab to create a multitude of 3D prints, creating optical effects like caustic images and objects with specific deformation and textural properties.

Three rhinos printed using the Spec2Fab methodology

"Spec2Fab is a small but powerful toolbox for building algorithms that can produce an endless array of complex, printable objects," said Desai Chen, a PhD student at CSAIL and lead author of one of the papers.


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