Conventional 3D printing involves creating objects layer by layer. Although this brings the desired results, it is tedious and often leaves much to be desired regarding the level of detail of the created objects. The 3D printing method developed by scientists from EPFL looks quite different.
By creating a new technique, researchers from EPFL strongly they were inspired by computed tomography. Tomography, as is known, consists in imaging the cross-section (primarily) of the human body with the help of X-rays. 2D and 3D sectional images are composed of projections made from different directions.
Thus, the EPFL 3D printer is not a printer that prints layer by layer. As part of the new method, the transparent liquid (liquid plastic or biological gel), enclosed in a transparent container, is irradiated while the container itself rotates. An object with the desired appearance and shape appears in the tank within … 30 seconds – in its entirety, not segment by segment.
"Light is crucial here," said Paul Dlrot, CTO of Readily3D, which was founded to take on the task of further developing the technology and introducing it to the market. "The laser cures the liquid in the polymerization process. Depending on what we're building, we use algorithms to accurately calculate where to direct the beams – at what angle, and what power they should have. "
For now, only small objects can be printed this way
At this time, the method allows printing objects up to 2 centimeters in diameter, to the nearest 80 micrometres. 80 microns is the average diameter of a human hair. However, the authors of the technique believe that in the future it will be possible to print objects with a diameter of up to 15 centimeters.
3D printers using the described method can find many applications. These, however, would be particularly good in fields related to medicine. They could be used, for example, to print tissues, organs, hearing aids or mouth protectors.