New ultra-fast 3D printing technology uses resin and light

Researchers with the University of Michigan have developed a new 3D printing technology that is capable of printing 100 times faster than normal 3D printers. Unlike traditional 3D printers, which work by applying plastic down as layers, the new technology involves resin that is solidified upward at rapid speeds. The new method is capable of producing complex objects at speeds that traditional printers can't compete with.

Normal 3D printers use plastic filament that is melted and laid down as 1D lines. Layers are built upon layers according to 3D models, the result eventually being a 3D model. The printing process isn't particularly fast, putting a limitation on the technology's usefulness for manufacturing objects within the typical time frames manufacturers require.

The new resin-based method is different, replacing the 1D line method with two vats of liquid resin and lights used to harden the resin. The system lifts the objects from the liquid resin, which is selectively hardened using two lights that control the hardening process.

Because the material starts as a liquid and is only hardened where necessary, the researchers say their technology can produce more complex shapes at faster rates. Objects printed with this technology are more durable than their filament-based counterparts, which are potentially weak between each layer.

A faster printing rate makes the technology potentially viable as a way to manufacture objects without molds, saving manufacturers money without greatly increasing the amount of time needed to produce the items. The University of Michigan has filed three patent applications related to the innovation.

Image credit: Evan Dougherty