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Multi-material 3D Printing using OpenFab from MIT
Current 3D printers typically use a single material at a time. Multi-material 3D printers combine different materials in one object and can create complex objects with different properties in different parts of the object. MIT has designed an OpenFab programmable pipeline for 3D printing multi-material objects. The pipeline uses programs called fablets that define the material content of an object to be 3D printed.
The input to the pipeline is a description of the objects being 3D printed. Different stages of the pipeline perform different processing of the objects. The objects are represented as several small micro-polygons. A surface phase determines the attributes of these micro-polygons, for example, texture. The objects are divided into small volume elements. A volume phase assigns material mixtures to the volume elements. Thus, by dividing the surface and volume into a large number of small pieces, different materials can be used and different properties specified for different parts of the objects.
This picture shows three rhino printed using OpenFab (http://openfab.mit.edu/pdf/openfab.pdf.) Each rhino has the same geometry but is made of different materials.