A team of researchers at MIT's Mediated Matter group has developed a method that solves the problem of 3D printing not being able to handle fine details of specific data sets, such as the fine tracks of white matter in brain scans.
Led by Professor Neri Oxman, the team's new approach allows researchers to access an even more tangible way to see data through the use of 3D printing.
Previously, visually analyzing most 3D data still primarily relies on 2D computer displays. Although we have been physically representing information in two dimensions, limitations remain as our brains have evolved for stereoscopic vision. Moreover, when 3D images are represented in 2D, it can be difficult to see the detailed three-dimensional relationships between objects.
Instead of using pixels, the team's approach converts data into "voxels," or volumetric pixels. The 3D printer deposits droplets of special resin that is cured and hardened by ultraviolent light. Billions of these resin voxels are deposited in incredibly thin layers (as thin as 12 microns) to create high-resolution 3D objects. Additionally, the process uses colored and transparent resin, which allows full color models that include transparency where needed.
The results are outstanding and incredibly practical, with potential applications in medicine, archaeology, planetary science, education, and more.
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