3D Printer Using Light to Create Solid Objects Developed by Researchers

Researchers from California demonstrated a new approach to 3D printing, moving away from layer by layer product manufacturing.

Photo: Pixabay

California-based researchers have developed a different way to 3D print objects by printing an object almost simultaneously as a whole. The process involves beaming light into a transparent cylinder filled with liquid resin.

The synthetic resin used is light-sensitive, which solidifies when subjected to certain intensities of light. Nature explained that as the photons interact with the resin, it then undergoes polymerization. This allows a solid plastic to form due to the linking of resin molecules. The strategy was to subject the resin to specific light intensities using a pattern to create an image profile.  

To do this, scientists took a similar approach used in Computer Tomography (CT) scanning. They captured images of a 3D object from multiple angles and used software to combine the multiple 2D images into a video sequence. The resulting video animation shows the object rotating horizontally.

The video is then projected to the resin-filled cylinder, which rotates at a specific period. The cylinder’s rotation is perfectly synchronized to the sequence of the video projection. Thus, a specific image is projected on the exact same cylinder face as it rotates several times.

The method, called volumetric additive manufacturing, has many advantages compared to layer-based 3D printing. It produces final products with smoother surfaces and uniform cross-sectional consistency. Printed objects can also be produced faster and can have much more complex geometries.

Future applications of this technology could benefit various industries. Personalized medical items like prosthesis or dental implants may be manufactured this way. Many tools, optical devices, and recreational consumer goods can also be reproduced easily.

The method however still has its limitations. More research about polymer chemistry and engineering need to be conducted to improve the properties of the resin. Also, strategies need to be developed to overcome the effects of intersecting photons during printing of extremely complex products.

Watch the video below to see an actual demonstration of the technology.

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John is a mechanical and environmental engineer who is fascinated with current and future tech. To this day, he still can't get over how amazing touchscreens and airplanes are.