Making data matter: Voxel printing for the digital fabrication of data across scales and domains

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Science Advances  30 May 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 5, eaas8652
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aas8652

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We present a multimaterial voxel-printing method that enables the physical visualization of data sets commonly associated with scientific imaging. Leveraging voxel-based control of multimaterial three-dimensional (3D) printing, our method enables additive manufacturing of discontinuous data types such as point cloud data, curve and graph data, image-based data, and volumetric data. By converting data sets into dithered material deposition descriptions, through modifications to rasterization processes, we demonstrate that data sets frequently visualized on screen can be converted into physical, materially heterogeneous objects. Our approach alleviates the need to postprocess data sets to boundary representations, preventing alteration of data and loss of information in the produced physicalizations. Therefore, it bridges the gap between digital information representation and physical material composition. We evaluate the visual characteristics and features of our method, assess its relevance and applicability in the production of physical visualizations, and detail the conversion of data sets for multimaterial 3D printing. We conclude with exemplary 3D-printed data sets produced by our method pointing toward potential applications across scales, disciplines, and problem domains.

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