Nav: Home

3D printing 100 times faster with light

January 11, 2019

ANN ARBOR--Rather than building up plastic filaments layer by layer, a new approach to 3D printing lifts complex shapes from a vat of liquid at up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes, University of Michigan researchers have shown.

3D printing could change the game for relatively small manufacturing jobs, producing fewer than 10,000 identical items, because it would mean that the objects could be made without the need for a mold costing upwards of $10,000. But the most familiar form of 3D printing, which is sort of like building 3D objects with a series of 1D lines, hasn't been able to fill that gap on typical production timescales of a week or two.

"Using conventional approaches, that's not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines," said Timothy Scott, U-M associate professor of chemical engineering who co-led the development of the new 3D printing approach with Mark Burns, the T.C. Chang Professor of Engineering at U-M.

Their method solidifies the liquid resin using two lights to control where the resin hardens--and where it stays fluid. This enables the team to solidify the resin in more sophisticated patterns. They can make a 3D bas-relief in a single shot rather than in a series of 1D lines or 2D cross-sections. Their printing demonstrations include a lattice, a toy boat and a block M.

"It's one of the first true 3D printers ever made," said Burns, professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering.

But the true 3D approach is no mere stunt--it was necessary to overcome the limitations of earlier vat-printing efforts. Namely, the resin tends to solidify on the window that the light shines through, stopping the print job just as it gets started.

By creating a relatively large region where no solidification occurs, thicker resins--potentially with strengthening powder additives--can be used to produce more durable objects. The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers.

"You can get much tougher, much more wear-resistant materials," Scott said.

An earlier solution to the solidification-on-window problem was a window that lets oxygen through. The oxygen penetrates into the resin and halts the solidification near the window, leaving a film of fluid that will allow the newly printed surface to be pulled away.

But because this gap is only about as thick as a piece of transparent tape, the resin must be very runny to flow fast enough into the tiny gap between the newly solidified object and the window as the part is pulled up. This has limited vat printing to small, customized products that will be treated relatively gently, such as dental devices and shoe insoles.

By replacing the oxygen with a second light to halt solidification, the Michigan team can produce a much larger gap between the object and the window--millimeters thick--allowing resin to flow in thousands of times faster.

The key to success is the chemistry of the resin. In conventional systems, there is only one reaction. A photoactivator hardens the resin wherever light shines. In the Michigan system, there is also a photoinhibitor, which responds to a different wavelength of light.

Rather than merely controlling solidification in a 2D plane, as current vat-printing techniques do, the Michigan team can pattern the two kinds of light to harden the resin at essentially any 3D place near the illumination window.

U-M has filed three patent applications to protect the multiple inventive aspects of the approach, and Scott is preparing to launch a startup company.

A paper describing this research will be published in Science Advances, titled, "Rapid, continuous additive manufacturing by volumetric polymerization inhibition patterning."
-end-
Timothy Scott: https://che.engin.umich.edu/people/timothy-scott/

Mark Burns: https://che.engin.umich.edu/people/mark-burns/

University of Michigan

Related Engineering Articles:

Engineering a new cancer detection tool
E. coli may have potentially harmful effects but scientists in Australia have discovered this bacterium produces a toxin which binds to an unusual sugar that is part of carbohydrate structures present on cells not usually produced by healthy cells.
Engineering heart valves for the many
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the University of Zurich announced today a cross-institutional team effort to generate a functional heart valve replacement with the capacity for repair, regeneration, and growth.
Geosciences-inspired engineering
The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today's modern world.
Engineering success
Academically strong, low-income would-be engineers get the boost they need to complete their undergraduate degrees.
HKU Engineering Professor Ron Hui named a Fellow by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering
Professor Ron Hui, Chair Professor of Power Electronics and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, has been named a Fellow by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, one of the most prestigious national academies.
More Engineering News and Engineering Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...