In the world of 3D printing, a recent technique of continuous printing allows producing parts faster than conventional methods. US researchers say they have gone even further thanks to a new process based on irradiation with two light sources.
When we talk about 3D printing, we usually talk about additive manufacturing. The method makes it possible to produce a piece by stacking successive layers.
The major disadvantage is the time it takes to produce this way, parts in small series. But researchers at the University of Michigan (United States) announced today that they had developed a new method that is 100 times faster.
More precisely, they sought to improve a so-called continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) method which makes it possible to solidify a liquid resin using a light source by photopolymerization.
But this method requires the injection of flow of oxygen between the light source and the resin so that the latter remains liquid, if only on the thickness of an adhesive tape. Otherwise, it would stick to the window, and it would become impossible to create the desired model.
Two light sources are better than one.
Researchers at Michigan University used a photopolymerizable resin but especially two light sources at different wavelengths.
One of them has the role of selectively solidifying the resin. The other maintains a layer of liquid resin a few millimeters between the sources and the part being printed.
The whole is made possible by the addition in the formulation of the resin of a photo activator and a photo inhibitor that react at different wavelengths.
And the system allows a continuous printing at a speed of about two meters per hour against only a few millimeters to a few centimeters in old methods.
3D printing: a new ultra-fast and continuous technique
On the Internet, an Australian company, Gizmo 3D Printers, presents a 3D printer operating continuously and much faster than the models working layer by layer. Recently, US researchers had unveiled a similar device, soon marketed by their start-up, Carbon3D.
Gizmo 3D Printers has developed an advanced 3D printing system that can print resin objects in just a few minutes, an operation sometimes requiring several hours with old printing method.
Objects are made from liquid resin, from top to bottom, unlike traditional 3D printers that print from the bottom up.
The Gizmo 3D made even unprecedented use of technology DLP ( Direct Light Printing) using a resin plate immersed in a tank and prints continuously at a steady pace, without giving more details for the moment.
In a video posted (and shown below), the printing of three objects 30 mm in diameter takes for example only 6 minutes. The company says that “with a larger memory, the machine could print in the same period objects of 150 x 80 x 26 mm”.
Continuous 3D printing makes emulators
Gizmo 3D Printers is expected to promote three models through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for first deliveries scheduled for September 2015. This range of printers is supposed to be available from $ 2,500 to $ 6,000 depending on the size of the model.
Alternative 3D printing projects that are both faster and more efficient are proliferating. For example, the American start-up Carbon3D recently showed a continuous 3D printer which uses light and oxygen.
The device was unveiled at the TED conference in Vancouver, Canada. The technology requires only a few minutes to print objects.