Student Post: First Steps Toward 3D Printing Meshes Generated By Sphere Packing

Dear Reader,

A major goal of my Sphere Packing research is to actualize the mathematics and computer models into novel techniques for the mesh generation portion of the 3D printing process. To this end, we need a way to complete the full process starting from an STL model of a 3D object and ending with a 3D printed object. With the current software, we have already established a way to generate the meshes; however, we do not yet have a way to print the meshes. As partially mentioned in the previous post, we came up with two possible approaches for printing the meshes. The first method that we will try involves the conversion of a mesh into a solid using OpenSCAD.

A simple illustration of this idea is shown below:

Image result for arrowImage result for openscad hollow tetrahedron

Having the solid, we could then use traditional slicer software to generate the G-code for printing the object.

Also, we can use OpenSCAD’s shape union and intersection functionalities to combine the shell of the original object with the internal infill mesh to create a print object that would have the shape of the original object but with a semi-hollow internal support structure consisting of the mesh from sphere packing.

Image result for openscad intersection

The general idea is produce a lightweight solid with a strong internal structure that can withstand great stress. An analogy to a natural structure with this quality would be bird bones which are necessarily lightweight for flight yet they can withstand the constant pressures from flight motions.

Image result for bird bone

The specific implementation of this procedure is in progress, so stay tuned. ~

Thanks for reading!

-Xiang

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