Skip to main content

3D-printing technique produces tiny, highly detailed objects in seconds

The new fast 3D printing technique developed by researchers at EPFL.
The new fast 3D printing technique developed by researchers at EPFL. Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

3D printing has incredible potential for both research and home uses, but it has some limitations. The current technology takes some time to produce an object, and it produces hard structures only. But now, researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) have come up with a method for printing highly-precise miniature objects with different textures.

Not only can the process produce more elaborate and detailed soft objects, but it is also extremely quick, requiring less than 30 seconds to print an object from start to finish. It works by using a translucent liquid and setting it into shapes, which can form scaffold-like structures in which cells can develop. It has potential uses in the area of 3D bioprinting, for example for creating artificial arteries that could eventually be used to replace or repair damaged heart parts in humans.

“Conventional 3-D printing techniques, known as additive manufacturing, build parts layer by layer,” Damien Loterie, microengineering researcher and the CEO of Readily3D, the company the team set up to market their technique, explained in a statement. “The problem is that soft objects made that way quickly fall apart.”

To address the issue of stability, the team used the principles of tomography to harden the objects using light. When an object is printed, a laser is fired through the translucent gel to set it into a firmer form.

“It’s all about the light,” Paul Delrot, Readily3D’s CTO, said in the statement. “The laser hardens the liquid through a process of polymerization. Depending on what we’re building, we use algorithms to calculate exactly where we need to aim the beams, from what angles, and at what dose.”

Printing tiny, high-precision objects in a matter of seconds

At the moment, the printer can create structures of up to two centimeters in size, with a precision level of 80 micrometers — which is approximately the width of a human hair. The next stage of research is to develop a printer that can create larger objects of up to 15 centimeters in size. Additionally, the researchers are considering using the process to create silicone or acrylic parts which, unlike traditional 3D printed objects, don’t need to be finished off with sanding.

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Need a last-minute Halloween costume? Check out these 3D-printable getups
3D printed Halloween costumes

Still not sure what to dress up as for Halloween this year? Well, instead of frantically scrambling around town looking for the right shop with the right stuff, have you considered 3D printing your Halloween costume? Check out our list of 3D-printable masks and costume pieces to get all geared up for this year's spooking, then fire up that printer.

If you've already finished your costume and want to get started on your scary movie watchlist, we've put together a list of the best horror movies on Netflix.
Squid Game soldier mask

Read more
NASA is testing a 3D printer that uses moon dust to print in space
The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility, and the print heads, plates and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station.

The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility and the print heads, plates, and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station. Redwire Space

When a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) this week, it carried a very special piece of equipment from Earth: A 3D printer that uses moon dust to make solid material.

Read more
The best 3D printers under $500
3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500
anycubic photon review 3d printer xxl 2

The 3D printing market has seen quite a few changes over the last few years. In just the span of a decade, the barrier to entry has dropped from well over several thousand dollars to under $200 in some cases. However, all entry and mid-level printers are not made equal. We have a few suggestions for prospective buyers and other information regarding alternatives not found on this list.

To some veterans of the 3D printing scene, this list may seem like it lacks a few of the most commonly recommended printers for newcomers. This is by design. Our list only considers printers with tested components from proven, reliable vendors. That's why we chose the Monoprice MP Mini v2 as our top pick--it's reliable and easy to use. We have avoided any printer with a frame primarily made from interlocking acrylic pieces and anything historically unreliable.
Most bang for your buck: Monoprice MP Mini v2
 

Read more