How To Make Voronoi Pattern with 3D Printer

This cool mathematical diagram can generate a very cool 3D model

When you get hooked on 3D printing, you go back to school, so to speak. Someone sends you a 3D model, but it needs some changes or polishing and you open up some 3D design software.

You hear people talking about interconnected triangles, about mesh models, about NURBS models, and making the model “watertight” before trying to print it. Every hobby or path in life takes time to learn the basics and intricacies. Then you see someone do something really creative with a 3D model by turning it into a Voronoi Pattern. Huh?

I found this little squirrel on Thingiverse and it reminded me of the dog in Up!, the animated movie, so I downloaded it to print. As you can see, it has an unusual design – those swiss cheese holes are known as the Voronoi Patterns. The image I show is from the Cura slicer program, but the original Squirrel Voronoi-Style is on Thingiverse, by Roman Hegglin, so you can download it yourself. Roman is a very active designer and has a lot of terrific 3D models that he shares with others. I am enjoying his work. 

After 3D printing the squirrel, on the very trusty LulzBot Mini (media loaner unit), I decided to go looking for more about these designs. Like many 3D print enthusiasts, I simply downloaded a model from Thingiverse without really thinking about how to do it myself. And, naturally, I ran into my buddy, Marshall Peck, from ProtoBuilds, who readers will remember is the guy who shared on how Building Your First 3D Printer Is Easier Than Ever.

Marshall explains a ton in his blog and also on Instructables, complete with screenshots, so you will want to head there to check it out: How to Make Voronoi Patterns with Autodesk® Meshmixer.

These patterns can provide consistent horizontal cross sections for slices that might be helpful when using SLA / resin 3D printers. Voronoi models can print well on most Fused Filament 3D printers. As I mentioned, I tried it on the LulzBot Mini.

My first go, through no fault of the printer, left me with a half-headed squirrel. On the second go, I let Cura build support for me, which was a good and a bad thing. It uses a ton of material and then you have to break it, cut it, melt it all off of your final 3D print. I am definitely creating a post on “Tips for Removing 3D Print Support Structures.”

Step 1: Import Model and Reduce Polygons

1) Import model into Meshmixer [Import icon] or [file] > [Import]
2) Select entire model using keyboard Ctrl+a or use the [select] tool to click-drag certain parts you want to edit.
3) Click [Edit] > [Reduce] (Menu appears at top after selecting).
4) Increase the percentage slider or change drop down to lower triangle / polygon count. Less polygons result in larger openings in your final model. It may help to try a very low polygon count.
5) click [accept].

Step 2: Apply and modify the Pattern

1) Click [Edit] menu icon > [Make Pattern]
2) Change the first drop down to [Dual Edges] (pattern using exterior only) or [Mesh + Delaunay] Dual Edges (generates pattern inside model). Changing [element dimensions] will make thicker or narrower tubes.
3) To save model: File > export .STL

*Adjusting certain pattern settings may require intensive CPU usage.

*After clicking accept, you may want to reduce the new mesh polygons slightly for easier 3D printing or importing into other programs.

Let me know if you print any Voronoi Pattern models. I would love to hear about it. Click the TJ McCue bio link here or above next to my photo.