liquid drops

New 3D Printer: Builds Solids Out of Liquids

Shining A Light To Transform

“The Replicator” is the next generator 3D printer, the name shared with a Star Trek device that could make objects out of thin air. However, the 3D printer, built at the University of California in Berkeley, uses light to build solid 3D objects from a gelatinous solution.

The printer isn’t quite that advanced, but it is a step forward for 3D printing. What is its light source? It uses a repurposed digital video projector as a source to create objects that are smoother, more flexible and more complex than a traditional 3D printer. It uses just an ordinary, off-the-shelf video projector, plugged into a laptop and used to project a series of computed images, while a motor turns a cylinder that contains 3D-printing resin.

How does it work?

The projector holds a lot of 3D-computed models that it beams out as a series of light patterns directed at a gelatinous resin contained within a jar. The resin is composed of light-sensitive molecules and dissolved oxygen, and as the jar is slowly spun in place, the light beams at it. Oxygen is depleted, allowing the molecules in the resin to form cross-links. Those links are the key to the transformation, turning the liquid into a solid.

We know that traditionally, 3D printers use the typical layering process by which the printed object takes shape and form from the bottom up as horizontal layers are added one on top of the other.

The researchers have already created a number of different objects using the new printer, including a replica of Rodin’s Thinker statue, another is a smooth and highly flexible doughnut, and a model of the lower jaw.

Presently, the printer is limited to producing objects within a diameter of 4 inches (10.16 centimeters) and doesn’t produce any waste, the liquid can be reused in subsequent prints. Also, the replicator allows the fabrication of 3D objects around pre-existing structures. With these advantages objects can be mass-customized even more.

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Exploring Ideas for 3D Printing in Seattle

If you’ve got an idea for 3D printing, just bring it over to us at 3D Composites, your 3D printing company in Seattle. We do traditional 3D printing of models as we look forward to new approaches in 3D technology.