Scientists from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have demonstrated an impressively fast new 3D printing technology. The demonstration used a photoreactive resin and targeted intersecting light beams to cure precisely selected areas of the resin. During the tests, scientists found that they can make a sample of the figure 30 times faster than traditional methods of additive 3D printing.
This method of 3D printing using light to cure individual areas of resin was first developed in the EPFL about five years ago. It took scientists so long to perfect the process and be confident in their achievements. Now, they boast that their 3D printer is “one of the fastest in the world.”
Fans of 3D printing are familiar with how traditional additive manufacturing works. Of course, this is a rather slow process of creating an object layer-by-layer, that takes time to dry/set, which slows down the process to a certain extent.
EPFL’s 3D printer uses a 3D method of object formation. Basically, some resin is poured into a glass vessel and rotated. As the vessel rotates, the light rays cross the target areas of the liquid volume, which then become solid. Scientists say that this is “a very accurate method that allows you to create objects with the same resolution as existing methods of 3D printing.” One of the most attractive features of this recently improved process is that its developers have made it extremely fast.
As for the bare numbers, the speed is really impressive. The tiny figure of Yoda you see above was created from the resin in just 20 seconds. The same file, printed on a traditional additive 3D printer, took 10 minutes. The 3D resin/light printer provided a 30x improvement in print speed. Remember that the quality and detail of the two competing printing methods are considered comparable.
The attractiveness of the special opaque resin used in these recent tests is that it is used to make biomedical objects. It is flexible and will be very useful for fast 3D printing of biological materials such as artificial arteries.
At the moment, this is an impressive job, but scientists have plans to enable 3D printing of more than one object at a time and continue to increase the resolution of the finished product.
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