Science News

Terminator-style 3D printing technique

Thu, 19th Mar 2015

Chris Smith

A revolutionary form of 3D-printing has been unveiled by researchers in the US.

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, Shadow Dexterous Robot Hand holding a lightbulbis the process of layer-by-layer construction of complex objects.

Particles of plastic or metallic agents are "glued" together to slowly build up structures which can range from tiny components to even whole houses. But a big drawback for the current process is the extremely slow printing times.

Now, writing in Science, researchers at the University of North Carolina and the company Carbon3D have developed a process they call CLIP - continuous liquid interface production - that is up to one hundred times faster.

The invention was inspired by the Hollywood movie "Terminator 2", in which the robot assassin emerges from a bath of liquid.

"In our system," explains Joseph DeSimone who led the study, "we have a puddle of 'polymerisable' liquid sitting above a window.

A 'movie' of ultraviolet light shines through the window and causes the polymer to set in a shape corresponding to where the UV falls. Oxygen permeating through the window stops the polymer setting against the window, and we draw the 'printed' object out of puddle as we go."

Currently, the process can print objects ranging from between 1/200'th of a millimetre to 250 millimetres, although it should be possible to scale it further.

It also achieves in seconds to minutes what traditional 3D-printing technologies usually requires hours to make.

"We are really excited by the prospect of being able to use this technology to make a new generation of sensors, lab-on-a-chip devices and drug delivery systems," says DeSimone.

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