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Making data matter

A multimaterial, voxel-printing method turns imaging datasets into physical objects

By Lindsay Brownell

(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — The world is awash in digital images, from photographs to x-rays to computer models to 3D scans. The advent of 3D printing has made it possible to take imaging data and print it into physical representations, but the process of doing so has been prohibitively time-intensive and costly.

A new data processing method developed through a joint collaboration between the Wyss Institute and the MIT Media Lab removes that roadblock by converting various different forms of complex 3D data into a stack of high resolution “dithered bitmaps” which preserves extremely fine details and material gradients present in the source files. The researchers hope that this “bridging of the gap between digital information representation and physical material composition” will help democratize 3D printing and eventually allow anyone to print an accurate, detailed, full-color 3D model of almost anything imaginable.

Here is a selection of the physical objects their method created from various imaging datasets, featured in a second publication in Science Advances.

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