Stratasys has been talking about Voxels since 2013 and brought them to fruition late last year. Introducing the world to GrabCAD Voxel Print at Formnext 2017, it unveiled the revolutionary next step in flexible, freeform 3D design and manufacturing.
“Think of the pixels that make up a flat image, then extrude them,” says Laser Lines’ Richard Hoy. “When a pixel takes up volumetric space, it’s a voxel.”
Just as a pixel combines data about both its colour and what makes it up – paint, pencil, light and so on – a voxel is a unique combination of physical specs for each point in a model.
“Each voxel can be specified to define a colour, shore-value gradient and opacity,” Hoy explains. “By combining up to six different materials, you can build almost without limits. Closely-packed voxels give the appearance of a far wider range of colours, and mimic natural materials like wood, brick – even flesh.”
By working with voxels, you can delve below the planes that comprise the faces of your finished model to define the exact composition of every point in its 3D space. The result is an almost unlimited level of creativity. Mixing and matching materials in the printer itself achieves finishes that would otherwise be impossible.
“The Voxel Print utility processes PNG or bitmap slices, applying them to existing CAD models to define their internal structure,” says Hoy. “Naturally, its sheer versatility requires a printer to match, so the results can only be output by the Stratasys J750 and Stratasys J735.”
Voxel Print lets designers work on a microscopic scale. Each Voxel is the same width and length as the smallest possible material extrusion, and the gap between the layers on which they’re arranged matches the printer’s Z-height setting. On the J750, that’s 0.027mm in high speed mode, and an impressive 0.014mm at best quality.
Quoted by TCT magazine at Voxel Print’s official unveiling, Gina Scala, Stratasys’ director of marketing for global education, explained that “it turns the Stratasys J750 3D printer into the world’s premium platform for experimentation, discovery and innovation. Amazing new product ideas are often born in the research lab; that’s where GrabCAD Voxel Print can make a substantial impact on design and manufacturing.”
“Blending photopolymers as and when required takes 3D printing to the next level,” says Hoy. “It frees J750 and J735 users to create anything – and everything – they can imagine, without having to wait for Stratasys to introduce new materials.”
Stratasys sees use cases going far beyond small-scale parts production, too. It envisages more robust building design, which will help architects combat the effects of earthquakes, and aircraft designers giving wings greater flexibility, thus saving fuel.
“By combining materials in different quantities, designers really will enjoy full control over the finished model,” says Hoy. “It’s no exaggeration to call this one of the biggest software advances in 3D printing – ever.”
As a Stratasys Platinum Partner, Laser Lines sells and supports the full range of Stratasys 3D printers and GrabCAD software. Call 01295 672588 or email email@example.com to learn more about GrabCAD Voxel Print.