With the rapid development of 3D printers, some of the recent models enable users to produce objects with complicated internal structures in full colours or with multi materials. However, existing 3D printing data formats have limitations, such as not being able to retain sufficient information on colours and materials.

To address this issue, Fuji Xerox has collaborated with the Keio Research Institute at Keio University Shonan-Fujisawa Campus to co-research a new data format for 3D printing, the FAV (FAbricatable Voxel) Note 2.

FAV represents 3D models using voxels*4 that can seamlessly model complicated internal structures and attributes. Unlike conventional polygon-based data that describes the surface of the object only, voxel is a basic 3D element, and in the case of FAV, colour and material information can be assigned to each voxel, resulting in a highly detailed 3D output.

Until now, to fabricate an object with different colours represented by CMYK or RGB, or with complicated structures using different materials (both hard and soft), each part of the object had to be designed separately using computer-aided design (CAD). The 3D-model CAD data or the scanned 3D data was then processed with software dedicated to a specific 3D printer to assign appropriate colours and materials. Users are sometimes needed to recover data in case it was damaged in a process, resulting in a long and troublesome workflow.

Voxel 01 Figure 1: Polygon-based and Voxel-based 3D models (Source: Fuji Xerox)

Making full use of the 3D data processing software development expertise of Hiroya Tanaka, representative of Social Fabrication Laboratory and professor of Faculty of Environment and Information Studies at Keio University, along with the image processing technology owned by Fuji Xerox, which can handle high quality and high definition images at high speed, FAV was formulated as the world's first data format that can represent a 3D object with embedded information on complex internal structures, including colours, materials and connection strength. FAV enables 3D print with colour and material information in a consistent manner without troublesome data processing.

Voxel 02 Figure 2: Conceptual representation of voxels laid out three-dimensionally. (Source: Fuji Xerox)

The research is also a product of Centre of Innovation (COI) Programme-the Centre of Kansei-oriented Digital Fabrication at Keio University and led by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.