At a conference in May, a group of MIT researchers announced they've successfully 3d printed hair like structures, opening up the possibility of creating entirely new product types, on demand, with 3d printing.
The problem that MIT grad student Jifei Ou and his fellow researchers faced when trying to 3d print parts so fine that they could mimic human hair or serve as the bristles for paint brushes didn't have anything to do with limitations of the printer they were using, but instead the files they needed to create to send to the printer for production.
"Hair comes with a challenge that is not on the hardware, but on the software side, he said"
Using previously available design softwares, the files needed to 3d print something as thin as a human hair would have been too large and would therefore be unreadable for today's 3d printers.
So, in order to tear down the limitations of printing brush like or hair like structures using 3d printing, the MIT team designed a software program they call Cilllia. Users are able to generate 3d printable files with the program by using a slider system instead of relying on previous, manual drawing techniques.
"The ability to fabricate customized hair-like structures not only expands the library of 3D-printable shapes, but also enables us to design alternative actuator and sensors," Ou and his team wrote in their research paper. "3D-printed hair can be used for designing everyday interactive objects."