As a materials engineer I’m fascinated by additive manufacturing, and I’ve had the possibility to work with SLM technology in the past.
In the last issue of Science Magazine (20 march 2015) the cover article is about an astonishing innovation in the field of polymers 3D printing.

In this article J. R. Tumbleston et al. describes the results of their research, which aimed to speed up the 3D printing process, which is highly time consuming. The result they achieved is notable, as they wrote:

We demonstrate the continuous generation of monolithic polymeric parts up to tens of centimeters in size with feature resolution
below 100 micrometers. Continuous liquid interface production is achieved with an oxygen-permeable window below the ultraviolet image projection plane, which creates a “dead zone” (persistent liquid interface) where photopolymerization is inhibited between
the window and the polymerizing part. We delineate critical control parameters and
show that complex solid parts can be drawn out of the resin at rates of hundreds of millimeters per hour. These print speeds allow parts to be produced in minutes instead of hours.

This work could be the starting point of a new approach to 3D printing, which has always been pointed as a new technology feasible only for prototyping or few pieces manufacturing, but not for industrial production due to slow production rate.
Well, I said a starting point because the CLI technique can be used only for UV-curable and Oxygen inhibited resins, while there are lots of different polymers that are used out there nowadays.

In the future this technology could be developed to be used also with different kinds of plastics. One of the consequences of this possibility is open a new path for product design.
I mean that as of today when someone has to design something, he has to take into account how he has to build it, and the function-oriented design may be substituted by a production-oriented design. In fact fast 3D printing gives the possibility to almost ignore geometric restrictions since quite every shape can be 3D-printed, leading to a deep optimization of products.

Unfortunately I’m quite sure I can’t share this article since it requires a subscription to be read, and I’m not going to get in trouble for this. If you want a copy of the article just purchase a single article or subscribe to Science Magazine.


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