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UM researchers build record-breaking light-based 3D printer

Light is key to model that's 100X faster than traditional 3D printers

Credit: Martin de Beer, Burns Lab, Michigan Engineering
Credit: Martin de Beer, Burns Lab, Michigan Engineering

ANN ARBOR – A team of researchers from the University of Michigan have created a printer that is 100 times faster than traditional 3D printers. Their secret? Light.

In contrast to building shapes with layers of plastic filaments, associate professor of chemical engineering Timothy Scott and professor of engineering Mark Burns used two lights to control in which places the liquid resin solidifies. 

According to a paper in the journal Science Advances, the new approach works by lifting intricate shapes from a vat of liquid.

This vat technique was flawed in the past. Previous researchers noted that resin would solidify on the window where a singular light would shine through, ruining the job just as it would begin.

The UM team solved this issue by using a second light beam to prevent resin solidification on the window.

Credit: Michigan Engineering

What it means

This new approach creates stronger objects, since no layering is involved. The approach could also have big implications for small-scale manufacturers searching for faster turnaround.

The university has filed three patent applications for the new method, and Scott is planning to launch a startup company.

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