This Next Generation 3D Printer Uses Light, Builds Objects In Just Minutes

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Today’s 3D printers are by nature incredibly slow. It takes a long time to do any printing. But researchers have developed a new 3D printer that replaces the extruder nozzle that squeezes out melted plastic one layer at a time with light and oxygen.

They call it the Carbon3D Printer and have demonstrated a technique with it that they call continuous liquid interface production, which grows 3D printed parts out of a liquid resin bath. Light and oxygen are employed to build a stronger part in layers. Build times are reduced from hours to minutes.

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Their 3D printing development relies on a process called stereolithography, which is an additive manufacturing technique that was developed in the 1980’s, that builds parts layer by layer with liquid resin that is subsequently cured by light.

“By rethinking the whole approach to 3D printing, and the chemistry and physics behind the process, we have developed a new technology that can create parts radically faster than traditional technologies by essentially ‘growing’ them in a pool of liquid,” said University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill chemistry professor Joseph DeSimone.

“We demonstrate the continuous generation of monolithic polymeric parts up to tens of centimeters in size with feature resolution below 100 micrometers,” the printer’s creators write in a paper published in the journal Science. “We delineate critical control parameters and show that complex solid parts can be drawn out of the resin at rates of hundreds of millimeters per hour. These print speeds allow parts to be produced in minutes instead of hours.”

With that, a technology that still feels brand new just got a lot more efficient.

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