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Data-Driven Material Modeling at the MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter Group

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Developed at the MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter Group by Christoph Bader, Dominik Kolb, James C. Weaver, and Neri Oxman, Data-Driven Material Modeling refers specifically to the process of the creation of high-resolution, geometrically complex, and materially heterogeneous 3D printed objects at product scale.

This approach utilizes external and user-generated data sets for the evaluation of heterogeneous material distributions during slice generation, thereby enabling the production of voxel-matrices describing material distributions for bitmap-printing at the 3D printer’s native voxel resolution. This bitmap-slicing framework designed to inform material property distribution in concert with slice generation contrasts existing approaches by emphasising the ability to integrate multiple geometry-based data sources to achieve high levels of control. Whereas 3D printing generally uses meshes, these often ignore the design potential of heterogeneous material distributions that are volumetric in nature and are usually printed using specific and singular material. Data-Driven Material Modeling process on the other hand, enables precise spatial control over the deposition of individual material droplets, where material composition is controlled at the droplet level by defining— for each deposited material—a binary 3D voxel-matrix at the native resolution of the printer (Connex500 printers can 3D print in 16-micron resolution—hair thickness resolution).

Building on the recent advances in 3D printing and closely collaborating with specialists and facilities at Stratasys, the team at the Mediated Matter Group have developed a framework that relies on data sets such as point-clouds, scalar and vector fields, curves and polygons, and tetrahedral meshes, with their associated attributes to produce a combined material 3D prints. For domains, or extents of the model, the framework uses polygonal meshes as source files within which point-clouds and vector fields exist. Each mesh is then sliced in the print direction, resulting in a set of rasterized layers where each pixel/voxel can store, for example, material information, vectors for velocity fields, matrices, or other data structures.

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↑ A data-driven computational framework for the production of bitmap-printable parts: (a) Object representation and data generation; (b) optional generation of a polygonal slice; (c) priority-ordering of specified material domains; (d) rasterization; (e) on-slice-time data-transfer and data-modification; (f) composition; (g) material dithering and direct bitmap-printing system.

The video example below shows an object’s cross-section, illustrating variations in the material composition of an object that is 3D printed with three different materials.

The Data-Driven Material Modeling framework uses Open Mesh for polygonal modelling and mesh-representation, gllib for geometry processing and OpenVDB for material-distribution representation. The generation of material descriptions is all homegrown C++ code.

In the latest series of work titled Vespers: Series created for The New Ancient Collection by Stratasys curated by Naomi Kaempfer and exhibited in the new London Design Museum, the team have explored ways they can utilise Data-Driven Material Modeling techniques to vary the physical properties of materials at the resolution of a sperm cell, a muscle cell, or a nerve cell. Features such as stiffness, colour, hygroscopy, transparency, conductivity, even scent, can be individually tuned for each three-dimensional pixel within a physical object. The team sees a new generation of products that are no longer limited to assemblages of discrete parts with homogeneous properties, rather like organs, objects can be computationally ‘grown’ and 3D printed to form materially heterogeneous and multi-functional products.

Using spatial mapping algorithms, the culturally coded surface colorations and truncated geometries in the first series (below) are transformed into coloured, internal strands within transparent, smoothly curved volumes in the second (above). The second series elucidates embryonic forms through complex internal geometries as it prepares to support the re-engineered life of the third series. In this series, it is the interplay of light that reveals the internal structures. Like spirits (from Latin spiritus, meaning ‘breath’), these structures reference the distribution of the martyr’s last breath.

Both Vespers: Series II and Vespers: Lazarus series of masks are currently on display at the recently opened Design Museum in London. For more information on the masks as well as technical papers, please see the links below.

Fear and Love at The Design Museum, London curated by Justin McGuirk, November 24th—April 23rd

Vespers: Series II | Vespers: LazarusMediated Matter GroupThe Design Museum | Stratasys

Credits: MIT Media Lab Mediated Matter’s Christoph Bader,  Dominik Kolb,  Rachel Smith,  Sunanda Sharma,  James WeaverProf. Neri Oxman / curated by Naomi Kaempfer, Creative Director of Art Fashion Design at Stratasys as well as Stratasys collaborators including Naomi Kaempfer, Arita Mattsoff, Boris Belocon, Gal Begun, Yoav Bressler and Ori Moalem.

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↑ Vespers: Lazarus – Masks created for The New Ancient Collection by Stratasys curated by Naomi Kaempfer – On show in Fear and Love at the Design Museum, London, November 24th—April 23rd

↑ Vespers, Series II. Created for The New Ancient Collection by Stratasys. 2016. Photo: Yoram Reshef

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↑ Vespers, Series II Detail Views