Engineers have developed an ultra-fast 3D printing process in opaque resin

At EPFL in Switzerland, engineers from the Applied Photonic Devices Laboratory (LAPD) have developed a resin 3D printer capable of designing objects in seconds. Based on volumetric printing technology, it makes it possible to produce parts with an opaque resin, which until now was not possible with this type of process.

Innovations centered on resin processes are numerous and already 5 years ago, this team of engineers had developed a technology allowing to considerably accelerate the printing process. Getting to the final part can take several hours and many manufacturers are looking to optimize the speed of their machines. In this case, engineers rely on a volumetric method. Christophe Moser, professor at EPFL, explains: “We pour the resin into a container and swirl it. Then we light the container from different angles, causing the resin to solidify wherever the energy stored in the resin exceeds a given level. It is a very precise method that can produce objects at the same resolution as existing 3D printing techniques.

Opaque Resin 3D Printing Process

Photo credits: EPFL

In addition to obtaining a part with good resolution, the process is considerably faster. In fact, the engineers tested their method and managed to print a tiny Yoda in just 20 seconds. But what is particularly interesting is the material used: an opaque resin. The use of such a resin in a volumetric process poses a major challenge. The light does not travel smoothly, which reduces the amount of energy needed to solidify the liquid resin. As a result, the resolution drops, making volumetric printing less appealing. The engineers therefore sought a solution to circumvent this challenge and ensure that the light could pass through the resin in a straight line.

The first step was to study the trajectory of this light with a video camera. Then they relied on computer calculations to dial in the distortion of the rays. The 3D printer was then programmed to perform these calculations and correct the path of light during the printing process. The objective is to redirect the light to the desired places to obtain enough energy to solidify the resin.

3D printing process in opaque resin

Little by little the resin is deposited in the object (photo credits: EPFL)

Engineers hope to use this technique in the medical field, particularly to design artificial arteries, as these procedures often require the use of opaque resin. The next steps will consist of using several materials at the same time and increasing the resolution from tenths of a millimeter to a micrometer. We will keep you informed of the next developments of the project! Meanwhile, you can find more information HERE.

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