A lot of people look at the 3D printing space as one that is quite miraculous. When they see objects being printed on these futuristic machines, they don’t stop to realize that each and every object has to be either scanned in, or modeled by a designer, prior to it becoming a tangible object. 3D modeling is providing those with innovative ideas, a means to make those ideas come to life, not only on a computer screen, but as real-world objects as well, thanks to 3D printing.
There are many modeling software packages out there, all relatively similar as far as how they work. Traditionally, 3D printed objects are modeled into STL files using triangles. These triangle meshes can then be sliced, and objects can then be printed on a 3D printer. However, triangles can be limiting.
When we print photographs, diagrams, or other objects on 2-dimensional desktop printers, everything is broken down into tiny dots, called pixels. These tiny pixels are so small, that when combined with one another they make photographs which the human eye sees as a complete picture. We don’t look at photos and start picking out each individual pixel. Instead we see the photograph as a whole.
A Polish company called Zmorph, who recently announced the Zmorph 2.0, the first multifiunctional, flexible and low-cost device for just about all additive and subtractive printing, is trying to change the 3D modeling space using a rather interesting approach. Today the company has launched an updated version of their Voxelizer software, which allows designers to model with 3D pixels (voxels) rather than triangles. This allows the designers to actually model each and every dot that the 3D printer prints.
“Unlike typical 3D modelling software which are focused only on creating exterior shapes, Voxelizer allows the modelling of volume as well as shape – making it suitable for printing from medical scans and other uses where volume is an essential property of the printed object,” explained Zmorph.
The software is compatible with any 3D printer which is related to the open source RepRap movement. This means Makerbot, Ultimaker, and other brands that originated from the RepRap movement are compatible with this new software. Beyond 3D printing, the software can also be used for many subtractive manufacturing methods such as milling and laser cutting. However, one area where Zmorph thinks this software will go to great use is that of the medical modeling field.
Voxelizer is compatible with DICOM medical imaging techniques, including MRI. This means that medical professionals can take an MRI and then create a 3D print using this software. Voxelizer, because of the use of these 3D pixels, allows professionals to take the scanned data, and incorporate different volumes into objects prior to printing them. This makes it possible to print both hard and soft tissues on medical models (i.e. both bone and muscle, or bone and cartilage). Zmorph believes that this will lead to a more mainstream use of medical prototyping because the software can be used on affordable FFF based 3D printers as opposed to $100,000+ machines that most hospitals and doctors have needed to use in the past.
Some of the other new features on Voxelizer’s 1.0 update are as follows:
- A new user interface, making it easier to work with the software.
- A new engine which is 4 times faster at creating voxelized objects.
- Manipulating and editing object models using 3D filters such as selective thickening and strengthening – allowing creators to change the properties of an object as well as delivering a better quality printed object.
- The ability to import STL files and convert them into voxels.
- Compatible with both single and dual head extruders for plastic, rubber and nylon as well as ZMorph’s custom menu tools for cake, chocolate and ceramics, head for 2D and 3D CNC milling as well as laser cutting.
“Our vision at ZMorph is to look beyond just 3D printing technology, and to see how intelligent fabrication can be used to make high-end processes accessible to many more people”, said Przemek Jaworski, founder and CEO of ZMorph. “We have deliberately made our Voxelizer software compatible with a wide range of printers so that as many creators as possible can understand the advantages that voxel modelling can bring to their creations. The other huge advantage it has is that it opens the possibility of using tools like CNC milling and engraving, so that creators are not limited to simple additive printing. We hope that this new version of Voxelizer helps to inspire more people to use these new technologies, and help our community grow”.
It should be interesting to see how this new software catches on among hobbyist as well as professionals in the medical field. If it can do what Zmorph claims it can do, this could be a major breakthrough, allowing all sorts of medical professions to begin using 3D printing in order to create helpful medical models. We have seen so many times in the past, where 3D printed medical models have literally saved an individual’s lives.
What do you think? Have you downloaded and tried out Voxelizer yet? Let us know what you think in the Voxelizer forum thread on 3DPB.com.