Laser beams print any shape in 10 sec­onds

3D print­ing in lay­ers is a lengthy process, but us­ing laser light, small plas­tic models can now be printed quickly, ac­cel­er­at­ing the process from de­sign to fin­ished prod­uct.

Science Illustrated - - 3D PRINTING -

Each layer of a tra­di­tional 3D print must harden, and that takes time, but an ef­fi­cient plas­tic hard­en­ing method, vol­u­met­ric 3D print­ing, can cre­ate a model in a few sec­onds. The method is based on par­tic­u­larly light­sen­si­tive plas­tic. The trans­par­ent plas­tic is poured into a con­tainer, sub­se­quently be­ing stim­u­lated by com­puter- con­trolled laser beams from three sides. Where the beams hit the plas­tic at the same time, it hard­ens.

The ma­te­rial hard­ens, when it ab­sorbs a spe­cific quan­tity of light en­ergy, which re­quires all three laser beams. They make up a type of holo­gram – a 3D im­age – which ma­te­ri­al­izes in the light-sen­si­tive plas­tic. Sci­en­tists have only pro­duced very small ob­jects of no more than 1 cm3, but in prin­ci­ple, the process could print much larger and more com­plex ob­jects by us­ing more than three laser beams.

The method is ideal for de­sign­ers aim­ing to find the per­fect shape of a new prod­uct by test­ing dozens of de­signs with mi­nor dif­fer­ences.

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