Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Are you old enough to remember the speed increase when you jumped from a dot matrix printer to a laser printer for the first time? How about when you switched from dial-up internet to broadband? 3D printing could be about to get a similarly seismic speed boost, thanks to pioneering research coming out of the University of Michigan.

Researchers there have invented a new method of 3D printing that is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. This could potentially prove transformative for the use of additive manufacturing in large-scale print runs, as opposed to one-off prototypes.

“We demonstrated the ability to harden liquid resin with one wavelength of light while preventing the hardening of the resin by superimposing light of a different wavelength,” Timothy Scott, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, told Digital Trends.

The researchers’ approach to 3D printing is a variation on the conventional method of stereolithography (SLA). This 3D-printing method involves projecting a two-dimensional image is projected onto photoreactive liquid resin to make a defined solid layer. These can then be stacked up to create a three-dimensional object. Unfortunately, in the words of the researchers, SLA can be “painfully slow” when it comes to printing. This is due to a separation and refilling step that accompanies the curing of each layer.

In the new approach, however, the researchers have figured out how to use two lights to control where the resin hardens and where it stays fluid. This allows for the solidification of resins into more complex patterns — including making a 3D sculpture in just one single shot, rather than as a series of 2D cross-sectional layers.

“[To address this limitation,] we applied our dual-wavelength approach where one light beam was used to prevent the resin solidifying onto the projection window, while the second light beam can penetrate deeper into the liquid and solidifies the resin away from the window [where the light enters],” Mark Burns, the T.C. Chang Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan, told us. “This process leaves liquid in the gap between the solidified part and the projection window and eliminates the need for the time-consuming separation and refilling step, thus enabling continuous printing at very high speeds.”

Scott said that the next step in the research is to expand the resin palette to include different chemistries and improved mechanical and thermal properties to build a full-scale, high-resolution prototype printer. “I think the likelihood of commercialization is very high,” he said. It’s so high, in fact, that the researchers are currently in the process of establishing a startup based on the technology.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Science Advances.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

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!
Computing

Google Earth spills the beans, reveals Taiwan’s secret military bases

Google Earth 3D Maps has spilled the beans on Taiwan's deepest secrets. The locations available in full three-dimensional detail include a facility which houses Patriot missiles and the country's National Security Bureau.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘Refabricator’ lets astronauts recycle 3D-printed tools to make new ones

The International Space Station just received a fancy new gadget in the form of a Refabricator, a machine capable of 3D printing using recycled plastic materials. Here's how it works.
Gaming

Nintendo 2DS XL vs. Nintendo 3DS XL: Which handheld reigns supreme?

The 3DS family of systems hasn't shown any signs of letting up in the age of the Nintendo Switch. With the New Nintendo 2DS XL in the picture, let's compare the newcomer to the New Nintendo 3DS XL.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s space observatory will map the sky with unprecedented detail

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge space observatory to create the most detailed map ever produced of the sky. Doing so will involve surveying hundreds of millions of galaxies. Here's how it plans to do it.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.