Real-life version of Star Trek’s ‘replicator’ 3D prints full objects in seconds

UC Berkeley

Inspired by Star Trek’s “replicator,” a machine capable of synthesizing objects on demand, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new, potentially game-changing type of 3D printer. Instead of building objects layer by layer, as conventional 3D printing methods do, this new printer is able to print entire objects at once — using projected light to transform gooey resin into solid finished pieces.

“We’ve invented a new category of 3D printing process inspired by the principles of computed tomography (CT),” Hayden Taylor, an electrical engineer at UC Berkeley, told Digital Trends. “CT is widely used in 3D medical and industrial imaging, but hasn’t previously been applied to fabrication. Our new process is called Computed Axial Lithography (CAL), and prints entire 3D objects into light-sensitive materials all at once. The process involves rotating a container of light-sensitive material, while projecting into it a sequence of computed light intensity patterns that are synchronized with the rotation. Over time, a 3D pattern of light energy is delivered to the material by more than a thousand different projections. Where the energy delivered exceeds a critical threshold, the material undergoes a chemical reaction and the part is formed.”

3d printing using light the thinker img 7995
Hayden Taylor

The CT machines regularly used in hospitals involve rotating an X-ray tube around patients, taking multiple images of their insides in the process, from which a computer can then reconstruct a 3D model. As Taylor described, in this new printing method that idea is reversed: meaning that it starts with a 3D object and then works out what it would look like from each angle to create such a finished shape. This data, comprised of 2D images, is then fed into a slide projector, which projects the images into a container filled with the synthetic resin. During the projection process, the container is rotated, resulting in a solid printed model.

To print an object several centimeters across takes just a couple of minutes. As a proof of concept, the team re-created a version of Auguste Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Thinker.”

“Almost all existing 3D printing processes build up components layer by layer, which limits printing speed and can introduce mechanical defects that may limit strength or make strength strongly directional,” Taylor continued. “CAL does away with the use of layers, and patterns all points of a polymeric 3D object simultaneously. This different approach opens up a range of new process capabilities.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs brings 3D demolition into your living room

Angry Birds is releasing its next entry in the spring of 2019 - with a new spin. Bringing 3D environments and destruction, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs uses augmented reality to add a new dimension to a classic series.
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.

Forget folding phones, the Insta360 EVO camera folds in half to shoot 360 video

The Insta360 EVO is a...flip camera? Unfolded, the Insta360 Evo shoots 3D in 180 degrees, folded, the new camera shoots in 360 degrees. The EVO launches with what are essentially a pair of 3D glasses for your phone, not your face, the…
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.