3D-printed objects 3D printing parts or components go through several stages, from printing to washing and then sintering. Even breakthrough printing innovations like Markforged’s new Metal X process for printing pure copper can take the whole day. Well, not anymore.
New research from scientists at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has found a new method for printing high-resolution objects in “in record time.”
In a new process called tomographic volumetric additive manufacturing applied from the theory of Tomography, a whole structure or component can be printed by illuminating a photopolymer resin from multiple angles with dynamic light patterns.
Tomography is the functioning principle in medical imaging to build a model of an object based on surface scans.
A resulting high-definition 3D object emerges from the resin in a matter of about 30 seconds. The resolution of the 3D-printed object can go as high as 80 µm. 80 µm about the same as the diameter of a strand of hair. Meanwhile, objects in the top of the range for layer-by-layer 3D printing can only go up to 300 µm.
“It’s all about the light. The laser hardens the liquid through a process of polymerization. Depending on what we’re building, we use algorithms to calculate exactly where we need to aim the beams, from what angles, and at what dose”. Paul Delrot, CTO of Readily3D explains. Readily3D the company that has been set up to develop and market the system.
Researchers are excited about this new process. Its advantages over traditional layer-by-layer 3D printing bring hope for more 3D printing applications in medicine. The process could be used, for instance, to make soft objects such as “tissue, organs, hearing aids and mouthguards. “What’s more, printing can take place inside sealed, sterile containers, preventing contamination.
“The system is currently capable of making two-centimetre structures. However, the team believes that 3D-printed objects could be increased to 15 centimetres in the future.
“The process could also be used to quickly build small silicone or acrylic parts that don’t need finishing after printing,” says Christophe Moser, head of EPFL’s Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices.
Further compounding on its advantages over traditional 3D printing methods, Damien Loterie, the CEO of Readily3D, explains.
“Conventional 3D printing techniques, known as additive manufacturing, build parts layer by layer. The problem is that soft objects made that way quickly fall apart.”What’s more, the process can be used to make delicate cell-laden scaffolds in which cells can develop in a pressure-free 3D environment. The researchers teamed up with a surgeon to test 3D-printed arteries made using the technique. “The trial results were extremely encouraging,” says Loterie.
Read the full research paper here