3D Printer Uses Light to Shape Objects, Transform Product Design

3D Printer Uses Light to Shape Objects, Transform Product Design

3D Printer Uses Light to Shape Objects, Transform Product Design

Light-based techniques 3D printing, i.e, Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Stereolithography (SLA), build up 3D objects layer by layer. The system, which the scientists have nicknamed the "replicator" in honor of the futuristic tech of Star Trek, is capable of creating incredibly smooth, flexible objects that just aren't possible with regular 3D printing. Using a 3D model of the object to be replicated, a computer tells the projector what patterns to beam onto the cylinder as the container rotates.

The researchers claimed to have reversed the principle of CT scans, which project X-rays or other types of electromagnetic radiation into the human body from different angles.

The "Replicator" 3D printer. The projection is calculated at each angle, researchers run an optimization algorithm and the result is a series of images that appears as a rotating video projection that can be played at a rate adjusted to the rotation of the resin vial.

"Our process enables us to construct components that encase other pre-existing solid objects, allowing for multi-material fabrication".

"The liquid that you don't want to cure is certainly having rays of light pass through it, so there needs to be a threshold of light exposure for this transition from liquid to solid", Taylor said.

The 3D-printing resin is composed of liquid polymers mixed with photosensitive molecules and dissolved oxygen.

Researchers from the University of California (UC), Berkeley have developed a 3D printer which projects CT scans onto a rotating volume of photosensitive resin.

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Those links are the key to the transformation, turning the liquid into a solid. The unused resin can be recycled and used at another time.

Taylor and the team used the printer to create a series of objects, from a tiny model of Rodin's "The Thinker" statue to a customized jawbone model. The printer is now limited to producing objects within a diameter of 4 inches (10.16 centimeters) and doesn't produce any waste - the goo can be reused in subsequent prints.

"Our technique generates nearly no material waste and the uncured material is 100 percent reusable", said Hossein Heidari, a graduate student in Taylor's lab at UC Berkeley and co-first author of the work.

This approach can print structures that are hard or impossible to make with regular 3D printers: overhanging features, disconnected parts - like a ball in a cage - and encased pre-existing items. According to the researchers, led by Hayden Taylor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Berkeley, all of these properties suggest that their printer could make anything from prosthetics to eyeglass lenses - all while capturing very fine details.

The "replicator" can also print over an existing object - such as the handle onto a metal screwdriver shaft. For instance, the team placed a screwdriver shaft within the resin, then used their printer to fabricate a handle.

"I think this is a route to being able to mass-customize objects even more, whether they are prosthetics or running shoes", said Taylor.

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