A new resin 3D printer combines a CT scanner and light to increase its speed

At the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), a team of researchers has developed a new type of 3D printer whose technology combines a CT scanner and light. By reversing the principle of the scanner, they were able to create all types of parts in record time from different polymer resins and play on their hardness. They would thus be able to reproduce the appearance of blood vessels or muscle tissue.

Today’s CT scans allow us to make cross-sectional images of our body parts and view tissues of different densities. This X-ray device is therefore used in the medical sector to establish a diagnosis. In this case, it was used to design a new, faster resin 3D printer.

Assistant Professor Yi Yang has created a resin 3D printer that combines light with a CT scanner

Assistant Professor Yi Yang is behind this project (photo credits: DTU)

Yi Yang is an Assistant Professor in DTU Chemistry and was involved in this project. He explained, “Our printer will construct a physical object at the intersections of CT images. The technology allows us to build integrated 3D objects with different material properties and transitions. We use a method called tomographic vat light curing (TVP), which allows us to print all points of a 3D object simultaneously. You have to imagine a box containing a liquid polymer – a kind of polymer printer ink. By exposing the ink to light of certain wavelengths, determined by a 3D image and constructed as a CT scan, the ink becomes solid in the desired shape.

Specifically, the machine uses an inverted CT image as a model and transforms the resin using light rays. This process would be much faster than laser technology because it solidifies all of the resin into the desired shape instead of doing it point by point. It could also vary the flexibility of the part in question according to the computer model, by directly controlling the wavelengths of the light used. This new machine would therefore be faster and offer more possibilities in terms of materials.

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So far, the tests are very conclusive and many different geometries have been achieved. However, the team sees enormous potential in the field of bio-printing: by playing on the flexibility of the material, they could imagine vascularized parts for patients who need new tissues and organs. Yi Yang concluded, “The degree of detail and flexibility of our 3D printing will hopefully be so extensive that the technique can be used to produce fully vascularized constructs using biopolymers as the ‘ink.’ This technology might be able to replicate the smoothness and unique buildup of blood vessels, capillaries, and muscles. There is still a long way to go, but hopefully the printer can get us closer to the goal. You can find more information in the official press release HERE.

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*Cover photo credits: Prototype Hubs