Liquid additive manufacturing // EIT Digital

Liquid additive manufacturing

At the heart of the CLIP process is a special window that is transparent to light and permeable to oxygen, much like a contact lens. By controlling the oxygen flux through the window, CLIP creates a “dead zone” in the resin pool just tens of microns thick where photopolymerization cannot occur. As a series of cross-sectional images of a 3D model is played like a movie into the resin pool from underneath, the physical object emerges continuously from just above the dead zone. Credit: Carbon3D

The headline is intentionally obscure to get your attention. As a matter of fact it perfectly reflects the news: additive manufacturing is the process of creating/manufacturing objects using 3D printers. They have been around for several years and from the first steps into prototyping they have now moved into manufacturing of special products, like the news I reported yesterday on sensors' printing and have become so affordable to enter the hobbyists market (under 1,000$).

The problem with 3D printing that so far has constrained its application to niches is the impossibility to scale at industrial volume. Additive printing takes a lot of time, since you manufacture the product one layer at a time.

Here comes the news of a revolutionary way of 3D printing based on liquid. Rather than printing one layer at the time the object gets formed by solidification of a liquid in the right spots.

Researchers at the University of North Caroline - Chapel Hill - have found a way to use oxygen and light to synthesise material out of a pool of liquid (see the clip).

They have created Carbon3D, a start up, to make the new technology commercially available and industry ready. The manufacturing of an object using this technology is up to 100 times faster than with the use of the normal 3D printing technology.

The new technology, called CLIP for Continuous Liquid Interface Production, activates unable chemistry, that is it makes possible to activate and control chemical reactions within a very precise and small space. By using an oxygen porous membrane across which both light and oxygen can flow a computer can activate a chemical reaction leading to solidification of a resin in a cube of less than 20µm, a quarter of the thickness of a sheet of paper. This is the basic building block to manufacture an object.  The chemical reaction is pretty fast, hence the higher yield of this new manufacturing process in comparison to a normal 3D printing.

Considering that this is a brand new tech, its performances are amazing.

Notice the "standard" 3D printing continues to evolves new research is resulting in better yield. As an example the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been awarded 540,000$ to develop Open Source algorithms to improve metal printing that can be used by car manufacturers, see clip.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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