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Multi-Material 3D Printing Optimized with Fraunhofer IGD’s Cuttlefish Software

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Germany’s Fraunhofer network of institutes continue to advance the state of the art in 3D printing, this time for Stratasys PolyJet. The Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research (IGD) has optimized its universal 3D printing driver, Cuttlefish, for use with PolyJet, further improving the process for even more realistic prints.

While Fraunhofer IPA tackles automation and Fraunhofer IWS is focused on lasers, Fraunhofer IGD is the institute is dedicated to applied visual computing. This has included the development of Cuttlefish, a driver that can be used by any 3D printer to improve an object’s appearance, shape and more.

In 2017, Cuttlefish began supporting PolyJet systems through the GrabCAD Voxel Print interface. As Stratasys has continually improved its inkjet technology, capable of 3D printing up to eight materials in a single print, Fraunhofer IGD has enhanced its software by optimizing existing algorithms and adding new ones. In turn, prints have better geometric and color accuracy.

The large amount of information involved in PolyJet, achieving an exact representation of the 3D model is more than just a hardware problem. Cuttlefish minimizes memory consumption for complex models in only a few seconds by calculating only the information required at a particular time for printing.

Cuttlefish® by Fraunhofer IGD makes it possible to work with multiple print materials at the same time and to exactly reproduce the geometry and colors including translucencies and fine shading transitions. Eye prosthesis printed with Cuttlefish® on a Stratasys J750 3D printer. (© Fraunhofer IGD)

Cuttlefish® by Fraunhofer IGD makes it possible to work with multiple print materials at the same time and to exactly reproduce the geometry and colors including translucencies and fine shading transitions. Eye prosthesis printed with Cuttlefish® on a Stratasys J750 3D printer. (© Fraunhofer IGD)

“When it’s an issue of optimization for mass production, specific color requests or degrees of translucency, nesting or individual color calibration, that’s where we come in,” said Philipp Urban, Head of 3D Printing Technologies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD. “Our collaborative partnership has been designed for the long term, with the aim of enabling Stratasys customers to fully exploit the technical potential of their printers.”

Urban and his team have been working on software for multi-material 3D printing since 2014, aiming to replicate geometry and colors as accurately as possible. In turn, Cuttlefish has already played an important role in the quality of countless PolyJet prints. Universities can rely on the software to explore their own research by incorporating their own methodologies and software into Cuttlefish, without the need to program the entire platform.

To animate the characters’ facial expressions in Missing Link, LAIKA used a number of Stratasys J750 3D printers, in conjunction with the Cuttlefish® 3D-printer driver, to create 106,000 highly detailed color 3D faces.

To animate the characters’ facial expressions in Missing Link, LAIKA used a number of Stratasys J750 3D printers, in conjunction with the Cuttlefish® 3D printer driver, to create 106,000 highly detailed color 3D faces. (© LAIKA)

As evidence of the quality rendered by the latest Cuttlefish optimization, Fraunhofer IGD has highlighted LAIKA Studios and its work for the Golden Globe-winning stop-motion film, Missing Link. The company 3D printed over 106,000 facial expressions using Cuttlefish and PolyJet. Due to the complexity of stop-motion, every model needed to match the exact shade of the model before it.

“We’ve been using 3D printers in stop-motion productions since Coraline, the first movie made at LAIKA. For our latest movie, Missing Link, we used Fraunhofer IGD technologies because they allow for unique color consistency and geometric accuracy. By combining the Cuttlefish software with the Stratasys J750 series 3D printers, we were able to create the most complex color 3D printed surfaces ever produced,” said Brian McLean, Director of Rapid Prototype at LAIKA.

LAIKA will likely use the technology once more in upcoming features, while Cuttlefish works behinds the scenes in any number of endeavors globally.

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