3D printing is beginning to take off - scary DIY guns and all - but MATAERIAL wants to take it one step further, "defying gravity" with its mesmerizing object modeling. Described as a new "extrusion technology", the combination of squirted-printing and a specially setting goo means 3D artists could create objects on irregular or non-horizontal surfaces.
Rather than building up layers, as per traditional 3D printers, the MATAERIAL system can produce 3D curves. That allows the designer to take into account stress lines, developers Petr Novikov and Saša Jokić from Barcelona's Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia say, among other things, without any temporary structural support or other load-bearing bracketing required.
Although MATAERIAL's video shows the 3D printer - mounted, dramatically, on a big industrial robotic arm - producing only a single color, in actual fact there's support for full color, even changing mid-flow. MATAERIAL can inject CMYK dyes into the path of the building material to adjust the eventual hue without the need for post-printing painting.
Details on the exact material used are scant, but according to Dezeen the rods are made up of thermosetting polymers, a chemical reaction between which causes them to quickly solidify. Regular 3D printers more commonly use thermoplastics.
"The desired shape is created by user in CAD software and then transformed into 3d curves describing the shape which are then converted into movement paths for the robotic arm. The thickness of the printed curve can be scaled down to less than a millimeter and can be adjusted during the printing process, by changing the speed of the movement. Colors can be injected in the nozzle in CMYK mode that allows changing of the curve color throughout the printing process" MATAERIAL
It's not quite the speedy process as shown in the video in real life; apparently, the footage was sped up by as much as 3x in post-processing. However, roughly one meter of printing takes three minutes, it's said.
The whole thing is reminiscent of Kickstarter success 3Doodler, which raised over $2.3m for its "3D printer pen" that can be used to sketch out drawings in plastic "ink". MATAERIAL envisages its system being used for furniture and architectural printing, among other things, though there's no telling how close to commercialization it all is.