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Monolith, Autodesk-acquired voxel modeling 3D design suite, gets major update | Building & Design

Monolith, Autodesk-acquired voxel modeling 3D design suite, gets major update

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Monolith, an Autodesk-acquired voxel modeling software for 3D printable designs, has released a major update. New features include a volumetric ray casting algorithm, UVW texture mapping, and plugin for Grasshopper.

Originally developed by Panagiotis Michalatos, an assistant professor or architecture at the Harvard School of Design, and Andrew Payne, a graduate from the same institution, Monolith looks to have a bright future following its recent acquisition by 3D software giant Autodesk. The Monolith 3D design suite is one of a handful of applications looking to revolutionize the way in which 3D printed designs are created, in order to facilitate new trends in 3D printing hardware and materials.

With more and more multi-material 3D printers being used across a range of applications, many 3D printing experts have noted the inadequacy of the dominant boundary representation paradigm (BREP) used to produce 3D designs. Although efficient and precise, BREP remains unsuited to multi-material 3D printing. Monolith introduces a new, more appropriate paradigm, working with voxels—volumetric (3D) pixels—to define solid objects as representations of material properties within a 3D volume. Voxels can describe the material properties, color, and density of a specific point within a 3D volume, completely changing the way users approach 3D design and 3D printing.

Monolith has now released a new build (v.0.2.5873.29071) of its standalone voxel editor, as well as a public release plugin for Grasshopper, a visual programming environment for Rhino which allows designers to build form generators without programming or scripting knowledge. The updated Monolith contains five main improvements over its predecessor, released over a year ago.

First and foremost, the core back-end technology of the software has reportedly been completely revamped, speeding up the software for all modern operating systems. The Monolith team recently ran tests on its iOS app, which is still in development, and reported high level performance on an iPad 2.

The second key update to the 3D design software is its “content specific top level user interface”. The entire design interface of the software has been restructured into three primary categories: layer editing, rasterization, and structural analysis. Users can switch between these interfaces to suit the task at hand.

Monolith supports both surface and volumetric rendering, but the latter has received a major overhaul. A new volumetric ray casting algorithm, the third major update to the software, yields “substantially more accurate visualizations” than the previous volumetric renderer.

The fourth big improvement to the voxel modeling application is its new approach to mesoscopic raster pattern application. 2D UV mapping techniques can now be extended with a third parameter determining the propagation of the voxel pattern within the thickness of a solid surface, allowing users to define the flow of micro patterns. A mesh based mapping system will enable the propagation of volumetric texture coordinates along any geometry.

The final exciting feature of the new version is its aforementioned Grasshopper plugin, which will offer a suite of tools for constructing and visualizing voxel-based models with Monolith’s custom OpenGL rendering pipeline. Monolith is currently free to download.


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