3D Printer With 'Eyes And Brains' Can Print New Products That Weren't Possible With Normal 3D Printing

Inkbit used machine vision and machine learning technologies to give their first industrial 3D printer "eyes" and "brain." This enabled their printers to print more products and using a wider range of materials.   ( Inkbit | MIT News )

Inkbit, a start-up founded by researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is granting industrial 3D printers new capabilities.

The company is updating multimaterial inkjet 3D printer by pairing it with machine vision and machine learning technologies, essentialy endowing it with eyes and brains.

This will enable industrial printers to be used to produce products that have never been printed before.

A 3D Printer With Eyes And A Brain

"Everyone knows the advantages of 3D printing are enormous. But most people are experiencing problems adopting it," stated David Marini, co-founder and CEO of Inkbit, to MIT News. "Our machine is the first one that can learn the properties of a material and predict its behavior. I believe it will be transformative because it will enable anyone to go from an idea to a usable product extremely quickly."

Inkbit's 3D printer is based on the machines that Marini and colleagues created back in 2015 at MIT. The group developed a relatively low-cost and precise 3D printer by leveraging machine vision. The project allowed the researchers to print a record of 10 materials at once.

Matusik dramatically improved the "eyes" of Inkbit's first 3D printer by using an optical coherence tomography scanner, a technology usually used by ophthalmologists. They built their own OCT scanner that they claim is 100 times faster than anything that is currently in the market.

Inkbit claims that the machine vision and machine learning systems of their 3D printer can automatically correct any errors in real-time, opening it up for a larger range of materials that the company can use to print without the usual rollers and scrapers of other 3D printers.

A 3D Printer That Can Do Anything

Currently, Inkbit's industrial 3D printer has 16 print heads that create multi-material parts and a print block large enough to produce hundreds of fist-sized items per year.

The researchers reported that Johnson & Johnson is already on the process of acquiring a printer.

However, Matusik and colleagues will continue to improve Inkbit's 3D printer. Next year, they shared that a propriety system for mixing two materials before printing will be added to the printers.

"Some of this is so far ahead of its time," commented Matusik. "I think it will be really fascinating to see how people are going to use it for final products."

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