Recently, a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) presented “Foundry,” a system for custom-designing a variety of 3-D printed objects with multiple materials. “In traditional manufacturing, objects made of different materials are manufactured via separate processes and then assembled with an adhesive or another binding process,” says PhD student Kiril Vidimče, who is first author on the paper. “Even existing multi-material 3-D printers have a similar workflow: parts are designed in traditional CAD [computer-aided-design] systems one at a time and then the print software allows the user to assign a single material to each part.”
In contrast, Foundry allows users to vary the material properties at a very fine resolution that hasn’t been possible before. To demonstrate, the team designed and fabricated a ping-pong paddle, skis with retro-reflective surfaces, a tricycle wheel, a helmet, and even a bone that could someday be used for surgical planning. Redesigning multi-material objects in existing design tools would take experienced engineers many days — and some designs would actually be completely infeasible. With Foundry, you can create these designs in minutes.
Foundry serves as the interface to help create such objects. To use it, you first design your object in a traditional CAD package like SolidWorks. Once the file is exported, you can determine the object’s composition by creating an “operator graph” that can include any of approximately 100 fine-tuned actions called “operators.”