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A 3D Solution That Sees the Light and Could Be Nearly as Fast.

Despite its promise, 3D printing as currently practiced isn't making a substantial dent on manufacturing time and costs, according to researchers at the University of Michigan who've come up with something that's potentially much faster.

"Using conventional approaches, [efficiency is] not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines," says Timothy Scott, U-M associate professor of chemical engineering who co-led the development of the new approach.

That newly released technique, which lifts shapes from a vat of liquid and uses two lights to control where the resin hardens, is challenging tried-and-true methods in 3D printing. But this isn't a mere academic revelation; its creators also claim it's up to 100 times faster than traditional additive manufacturing.

The U-M technique uses thicker resins and relies on a larger platform to halt solidification. Instead of creating a series of one or two-dimensional cross sections, the U-M researchers found they can make a 3D bas-relief (or carving a design into a surface) in a single shot. And by using two lights to control where the resin hardens and where it remains fluid, the team was able to solidify it into more complex patterns. Their printing demonstrations include a lattice, a toy boat and, unsurprisingly, a block M-the university logo.

Their process also alters the chemistry equation. In conventional systems, the resin hardens when exposed to light, the result of a photoactivator. The U-M solution uses a resin that also has a photoinhibitor, which responds to a different wavelength of light, allowing the two kinds of light to harden the resin at specific points.

The discovery is the subject of three patent filings and a startup company that Scott plans to launch. i

Caption: A block M created by University of Michigan chemical engineers who say their new system is as much as 100 times faster than traditional 3D printing.

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Title Annotation:GEAR: TECH WATCH
Publication:Automotive Design & Production
Date:Mar 1, 2019
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