When thinking about 3D printing, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a small or medium-sized structure being created layer by layer, starting all the way from the bottom and progressively getting generated upwards. However, researchers from Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) claim that they were able to develop a completely new way to 3D print whole objects within mere seconds.
This new technique could also have a major importance in medical applications in the nearby future, as creating 3D objects with remarkable resolution “in record time” can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful medical case.
According to the institution’s (EPFL’s) news report, the method is based on the principle of tomography – the technique known for displaying a representation of a cross section through a solid object by using x-rays or ultrasound.
To create a 3D object, a translucent photosensitive liquid resin is illuminated from multiple angles, and light is progressively accumulated to help solidifying the resin. Basically, the object will form a solid structure within the resin in one go, rather than the classic segment by segment process seen in traditional 3D printing methods.
Paul Delrot, CTO of Readily3D – the company behind developing and marketing the system – explained that “It’s all about the light. The laser hardens the liquid through a process of polymerization. Depending on what we’re building, we use algorithms to calculate exactly where we need to aim the beams, from what angles, and at what dose.”
As stated before, this revolutionary 3D printing technology could have major advantages in the medical field to assist medical experts with complex medical procedures.
For example, its researchers envision that the process could be ultimately used to make soft objects such as “tissue, organs, hearing aids and even mouth guards.” Furthermore more, the printing of new 3D objects using this new technology could also take place inside sealed, sterile containers, to ensure contamination is prevented.
According to EPFL’s news report “The system is currently capable of making two-centimeter structures with a precision of 80 micrometers, about the same as the diameter of a strand of hair.”
Nonetheless, the team believes that in the nearby future the system could be increased to offer a total accuracy of 15 centimeters when printing 3D objects.
Head of EPFL’s Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices Christophe Moser stated that “The process could also be used to quickly build small silicone or acrylic parts that don’t need finishing after printing”.