Researchers from the University of Michigan is revolutionizing 3D printing. A team has managed to create a printer that can perform 100 times faster than older models.
In a paper, they described a new approach that lifts up already solidified complex shapes from a vat of liquid. The team promises faster and more efficient small-scale manufacturing.
The researchers published the novel new approach in the journal Science Advances.
New 3D Printing Technique
The new approach moves away from the traditional technique in which the printer creates shapes by building plastic filaments layer by layer. According to the researchers, this old technique does not make sense for small-scale manufacturing because of the need for a mold that costs upward of $10,000.
For production jobs that aim to create identical items fewer than 10,000, the cost of traditional 3D printing can be expensive.
"Using conventional approaches, that's not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines," said Timothy Scott, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and one of the authors of the study.
The new approach does away with the additive techniques of traditional 3D printers and relies on phase change to create an object. Using two lights, the researchers were able to control where the liquid resin solidifies into sophisticated patterns.
"It's one of the first true 3D printers ever made," boasted Mark Burns, also a professor at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the study.
Previous efforts have attempted to solidify objects in vats of liquid resin, but none have come into fruition. Earlier models encountered various technical hurdles such as resin solidifying in windows where the light enters.
The researchers were able to successfully create patterns with the new approach by using a second light beam designed specifically to prevent resin from solidifying near the window of the vat.
The Future Of 3D Printing
The new approach could allow small-scale manufacturers quicker turnaround after a small batch of identical items has been produced. In addition, the researchers promised that the new approach protects objects from wear and tear, unlike traditional techniques that have weak points at the interfaces between layers.
The University of Michigan has already filed three patent applications for the new approach. Professor Scott is also hoping to open a startup company to offer the printer.