The ability to control each and every voxel in a 3D print is referred to as voxel-level control. It is not just about controlling the print surface, but also individual volumetric pixels that are present throughout the print. 3D printing with control over voxels, is Voxel-level 3D printing.
To be clear, control here means that the 3D printer can alter each voxel’s colour, texture, hardness/softness, and even the material (thus subsequently controlling its thermal, mechanical, resistance, chemical, conductive properties. This high level of control gives the print superior properties when compared to standard or non-voxel-level 3D printing.
Though voxel-level control is currently limited to only control over the colour of the print, but going forward it will expand to controlling the other facts as explained above.
It is easy to believe that voxel-level control will slow down the 3D printing process, but this is not the case. So much so that HP MJF technology, with its Voxel-level control, is up to ten times faster than competing 3D printers.
For those who are new to the concept of Voxels, read the difference between pixel and voxel to know more.
Popular Voxel-Level 3D Printers
There aren’t many 3D printers that allow for voxel-level control. HP was the first to announce its ground-breaking Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology. Others, such as Stratasys and Rize3D also provide voxel-level 3D printing capabilities.
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF): HP’s ground-breaking MJF technology enables voxel-level 3D printing. It has the ability to change the colour of individual voxels. Though the technology is currently limited to changing the colours of the voxel, it is only the beginning. This method allows MJF to produce parts ten times faster than competitors. It also provides designers with complete control over the finer details of their designs.
PolyJet: Stratasys’ PolyJet technology has also been used in its J750 series of 3D printers to provide Voxel-level 3D printing with full-colour prints.
Rize3D: Rize3D provides a one-of-a-kind combination of popular technologies such as material extrusion and material jetting. It also has 3D printing capabilities at the voxel level.
Voxel-Level Software Solutions
As the hardware evolves to enable voxel-level 3D printing, it is only a matter of time before the software also offers greater voxel-level designing capabilities. The STL format is the de facto industry standard for 3D printing. However, this format is unsuitable for storing voxel-level data such as colour, texture, and so on, limiting the application of 3D printing.
Due to the limitations of the STL format, colour and material settings can normally only be set uniformly for the entire body of a model or applied as a texture on the outside surface, not at voxel level.
Newer software solutions are being developed to achieve this voxel-level control. GrabCAD is one such software solution. This Stratasys software includes an add-on called the GrabCAD Voxel Print Utility. This add-on enhances 3D printing capabilities by allowing for voxel-level control while 3D printing. GrabCAD makes it easy to gain control over the printing voxels and assign colours to voxels as per the requirements.
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