Using a mixture of different materials in 3D printing has been difficult for the user end, requiring basically knowledge of programming and specific training, but new software developed by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab aims to be the “Photoshop for 3D materials,” making it accessible to basically anyone.
The “Foundry” system developed by CSAIL researchers helps with advanced 3D printers like MIT’s MultiFab printer that can print in high resolution using multiple, functional materials at once, giving designers and operators a way to print complicated objects that combine different materials in a wide variety of possible ways to give different parts of the object different properties.
Foundry includes real-time previewing, so as a user is tweaking their design, they’ll see exactly what it’s going to look like in terms of output, including the ability to drill down to a cross section to see how the 3D printer will produce the internal sections of the parts and the whole.
Using the new MIT software, researchers printed a ping-pong paddle, skis with very shiny surfaces, the wheel for a tricycle, a bike helmet and a bone, which the team says could actually be used in surgical planning applications. The key is that each of these projects combined a number of different materials to achieve different functional properties in different parts of the whole.