Since its introduction, 3D printing has released the promise of incredibly efficient and timely small-scale production, but has been withheld from widespread use at its slow speed.
However, a new technology developed by the University of Michigan promises to print complex designs 100 times faster than current printers, possibly opening the door for wider use.
How 3D Printing Works
The way 3D printers work is by reading a file of a 3D model and reconstructing the model by putting resin in small lines into layers, one on top of the other until the model is constructed.
The larger the model, however, the more time consuming this process becomes, exponentially grows as the model becomes wider and higher.
In addition, you would need more machines, often hundreds more if you needed to produce many copies of the 3D model that you would use to make small scales.
This is slightly better than traditional manufacturing processes, and therefore the industry has not had much incentive to adopt large-scale 3D printing.
Overcoming Time Barrier
It is not as if the incentive for 3D printing in the manufacture does not exist. For jobs that require less than 1
With manufacturers who need products to be rolled out within a week or two, 3D printing just can't fill these orders without being cost effective.
"Using conventional approaches, it cannot really be achieved unless you have hundreds of machines," said University of Michigan, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Timothy Scott.
Scott along with Mark Burns, TC Chang Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan, developed a new technique for 3D printing that seeks to overcome this time barrier. Their approach has yielded incredible results, resulting in an increase in production speed of 100 times the standard 3D printing techniques.
Creating a Vat Print Solution for Time Challenge
Burns and Scott tried a lot of other traditional printing techniques to achieve their results. Instead of putting the finished product out of a resin passage at a time, they used a couple of lasers to solidify the liquid resin in a vessel in the mold prescribed by the 3D model file.
The lasers can control where the resin remains fluid and where it solidifies so that they can make sophisticated shapes, including a toy boat, a block with the letter M cut into it and a grid.
Getting the lasers to print exactly what was needed was not a small task. Earlier experiments resulted in premature solidification of the resin at the window window, where the laser first contacted the resin.
Get Multiple Laser Precision Control
Earlier trials used only one laser so Burns and Scott tried to add another laser using a second wavelength to control the speed of Resin flow and could achieve 3D control of resin cure close to the vessel window, while previous previous printing methods were limited to a 2D plane.
"It's one of the first real 3D printers ever made," Burns said.
Patents have been filed for the various techniques used in the process, and Scott is planning a commercial venture based on their work.