This cuts down hugely on start-up delays, which tend to be common with the Connex500 because its software is not very scalable, Vidimce told us. This software requires you to give a 3D mesh for every part of an object that specifies the boundaries. "This works if you're doing something simple, like three parts and three different materials, but not if you've got a complex structure where materials are mixed and keep changing at a fine level: it takes too long and you run out of memory quickly."
Not every engineer wants to specify exactly what material properties should go where. Some just want to say "make an object that functions like this." That's where Spec2Fab comes in, a functional approach to specification. Using a "reducer tree," it reduces the object into smaller components, and its "tuner network" decides what the material composition of each should be. "With Spec2Fab, you don't have to care about materials," Piotr Didyk, post-doctoral associate, told Design News, in the interview. "You specify your design goal and the software optimizes it for material placement to achieve that goal."
Although the two techniques weren't designed to be layered on top of each other, they could be used together, said Vidimce. "If you have specific constraints for some parts of an object, you can specify the materials for it using OpenFab. But in another part of the object that needs functional specification, Spec2Fab could be used."
The team will open source the API portion of OpenFab, but will release only binaries for the back-end that does all the work, said Vidimce. Spec2Fab will be open-sourced for academic use only to begin with, Pitchaya Sitthi-Amorn, post-doctoral associate, told us.
The team presented their work in two papers at SIGGRAPH 2013: "OpenFab: A Programmable Pipeline for Multi-Material Fabrication," by Kiril Vidimce, Szu-Po Wang, Jonathan Ragan-Kelley, and Wojciech Matusik and "Spec2Fab: A Reducer-Tuner Model for Translating Specifications to 3D Prints," by Desai Chen, David I. W. Levin, Piotr Didyk, Pitchaya Sitthi-Amorn, and Wojciech Matusik.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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