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07-18-2016

3D Printing: A Hairy Issue

MIT Software Cilllia for Generative Manufacturing of Delicate Structures

When it comes to 3D printing hair or fur, the problem is not so much the printing itself, but rather the generation of the necessary three-dimensional model. The usual CAD software requires an extreme amount of time, frequently taking the computer hardware to its limits.

MIT scientists can print plastic hair of 50 micrometers diameter with their software – similar to a human hair (© 2012 Tangible Media Group / MIT Media Lab)

MIT scientists can print plastic hair of 50 micrometers diameter with their software – similar to a human hair (© 2012 Tangible Media Group / MIT Media Lab)

Scientists of Media Lab, a section of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), recently developed Cilllia, a software platform designed to change this. The program can print the most delicate structures by using stereolithography (SLA); as a material, a commercial photopolymer is applied.

More than a Gimmick

Other than a CAD program, Cilllia does not use triangle meshes to create an individual hair. It rather uses a type of map with three colors to generate the hair. Three colors represent the essential properties of a hair – diameter, length and angle. For example, if the researchers want to print a circular area with hair that is longer at the edges than in the center, they merely have to draw a red circle in Cilllia with its brightness changing from the center to the edges.

Other than a CAD program, Cilllia does not use triangle meshes to generate an individual hair; it rather uses a type of map with three colors (© 2012 Tangible Media Group / MIT Media Lab)

Other than a CAD program, Cilllia does not use triangle meshes to generate an individual hair; it rather uses a type of map with three colors (© 2012 Tangible Media Group / MIT Media Lab)

What looks like a gimmick at first sight, does in fact have its fields of application – among others in industry, i.e. in sensors and actuating elements based on extremely delicate structures. One example of application is a vibrating table with sections of differently structured hair that sorts small metal parts according to their weights.

additional links

Find more about Cilllia here

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