Skip to main content

MIT’s new MultiFab 3D printer can print with 10 different materials at once

mit multifab 3d printer screenshot
3D printers can print in a boatload of different matierals these days. Glass, nylon, wood, plastic, metal, chocolate — you name it and there’s probably a printer out there that can make objects with it. But the thing is, despite the massive number of material options we’ve got these days, the vast majority of printers can still only print with one material at a time. MIT’s MultiFab changes this, and pushes 3D printing forward by combining an affordable multi-material printing platform with a software system that is open and hackable. It may not be ready for primetime household use, but the device promises to shake up the market with a relatively small price tag and a myriad of printing options.

Currently, the typical 3D printer is capable or printing a single material object, usually plastic, that is printed in pieces and assembled manually in layers. The MultiFab throws this method out the door with the ability to print up to 10 materials at the same time using a method that prints finished components in a single session. It does all this with a price tag of only $7,000, which is inexpensive compared to similar industrial machines that often cost up to $250,000, and are considerably more tedious to use.

MultiFab: Vision-Assisted Multi-Material 3D Printing

“The platform opens up new possibilities for manufacturing, giving researchers and hobbyists alike the power to create objects that have previously been difficult or even impossible to print.”says Javier Ramos, a research engineer at CSAIL who co-authored the paper with members of professor Wojciech Matusik’s Computational Fabrication Group.

The MultiFab achieves its results using machine-vision 3D-scanning techniques that can quickly scan a large 3D area and adjust the printer’s calibration based on its scans. The unit has the ability to self-calibrate and self-correct, freeing users from the need to continuously fine tune the printing process. Theoretically, users could set the machine, walk away and return to a completed object. MultiFab also lets users embed components such as sensors into the object and specify moving components that are incorporated into the final product.

The printer can deliver a printing resolution of 40 microns, slightly less than half the width of a human hair, using off-the-shelf components that cost $7,000 to assemble. Besides its enterprise applications, the MIT group sees this technology bringing 3D printing to small companies and consumers. Locations that already offer single material printing, for example, could upgrade to this multi-material printer. These walk-in services would make it possible for an entrepreneur with big ideas but a small cash flow to prototype a device quickly and affordably.

Editors' Recommendations

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
Hit takers: The cutting-edge engineering making football helmets safer than ever
helmet engineering

Football helmets aren’t what they once were. And, while most of the time that turn of phrase is used to describe how things used to be better in the good old days, in this case, it’s certainly not.

Helmets are, in some senses, the most crucial bit of protective gear football players wear on the gridiron. Over the years, they’ve evolved from the leatherhead shell of yore to take advantage of breakthroughs on the material science front. Today’s big four helmet makers include the legacy brands Schutt and Riddell, in addition to comparative newcomers like VICIS and Xenith.

Read more
Ceramic ink could let doctors 3D print bones directly into a patient’s body
ceramic ink 3d printed bones bioprinting australia 2

Scientists use a novel ink to 3D print ‘bone’ with living cells

The term 3D bioprinting refers to the use of 3D printing technology to fabricate biomedical parts that, eventually, could be used to create replacement organs or other body parts as required. While we’re not at that point just yet, a number of big advances have been made toward this dream over the past couple of decades.

Read more