What if technology were to surpass the laws of nature? As mentioned in the “Quantum Alchemy” concept – Multiverse Theme in the SS20 Influences Trendbook (from page 86), this dreaded phenomenon could be on the verge of becoming a reality. The reason: engineers from Columbia University have achieved the feat of creating blocks of wood with an ultra-realistic effect using a 3D printer.
from olive wood o a printed resin
In terms of grain, texture and colour shades, the block of resin modelled on an olive wood sample could easily be mistaken for the original piece. “The final printed object closely resembles the original wooden block both in its external appearance and in its internal colour pattern, as confirmed when the block is cut or broken,” they stated. This makes it an unprecedented scientific achievement, which these researchers owe to recent innovations in digital imaging.
They first of all used a kind of destructive tomographic imaging to photograph ultra-fine slices of the wood, cut to just 27 micrometres (0.027 millimetres) in width by a CNC mill. The stack of 230 images was then fed to a Stratasys J750 PolyJet printer, an extraordinary machine capable of printing various colours and materials using voxels.
the voxel, a source of complex internal texture
Equivalent to pixels but in 3D space, voxels are the smallest elements into which an object can be divided in the design process. With voxel printing, the designers of a given object can specify each of the qualities that they want it to have. Within the framework of this project, the Stratasys J750, the Columbia University team said that it had established over 760 billion possible voxels. The engineers thus controlled the colour value of each point to produce their digital wood.
They also pointed out that the same technique could one day be used with different material properties, such as stiffness. This could pave the way for countless applications in terms of design and architecture.