For years, 3D printing has been heralded as the “next industrial revolution.” Now, the technology, which has promised to launch a new wave of decentralized, customizable manufacturing, might have its own version of the steam engine.
A company called Carbon3D has developed a process called continuous liquid interface production – or CLIP for short – that uses light and oxygen to rapidly and accurately fabricate objects with a previously-unseen level of geometric complexity.
Instead of painstakingly constructing an object layer-by-layer as with previous 3D printing techniques, CLIP continuously forms an object from a bath of liquid resin. The resin hardens when exposed to UV light, and projectors continuously shape the object to its desired specifications.
CLIP is much faster than traditional 3D printers, offering engineers the ability to fabricate objects in just a few minutes, rather than the hours needed by conventional processes. It also avoids the material weaknesses endemic to traditional 3D printing, with a uniform molecular bond rather than the stratified composition traditionally seen, and potentially allows for new types of materials – elastomers, silicones, nylon-like materials, ceramics and biodegradable materials – to be used.
The nature of 3D printing means that the invention’s potential applications are almost limitless, but Carbon3D CEO Joseph DeSimone envisions being able to extend a product’s digital link from its development in CAD software through the prototyping process and all the way to manufacturing high-quality, usable final products right at the point of use.
One area where DeSimone sees huge potential is on-demand, personalized medical devices.
“In addition to using new materials, CLIP can allow us to make stronger objects with unique geometries that other techniques cannot achieve, such as cardiac stents personally tailored to meet the needs of a specific patient,” said DeSimone in a March TED Talk.
“Since CLIP facilitates 3D polymeric object fabrication in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days, it would not be impossible within coming years to enable personalized coronary stents, dental implants or prosthetics to be 3D printed on-demand in a medical setting.”
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