Digital wood

Researchers at Columbia University say they have succeeded in making ‘digital wood’, or rather, in reproducing wood digitally. To achieve this, the team turned to state-of-the-art 3D printing technologies, such as destructive tomographic imaging and voxel printing. And so they made an exact replica of a piece of olive wood including the surface color texture as the internal color structure.

First, the researchers made wood samples using a camera-equipped (CNC) bench and a flying knife, which cut 27 μm from the wood surface with each planing run. The wood slices were photographed. This resulted in 230 images that formed the basis for the work of a voxel 3D printer. A voxel (a contraction of the words “volume” and “pixel”) indicates a value bound to a volume cell in three-dimensional space.

In order to print different materials, a Stratasys J750 printer sputters droplets of disparate materials onto the print bed. Then the material particles are compressed with a metal roller to mix the droplets. Then the layer was cured with ultraviolet light and the machine starts printing the next layer. Indeed, the result was very similar to the original wooden block, both on the outside and the internal color pattern. According to Columbia University, the developed 3D printing process can be used in digitally replicating a variety of objects with complex internal patterns that were previously impossible to produce.

The research was conducted by Fabian Stute, Joni Mici, Lewis Chamberlain and Hod Lipson, Columbia University.

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