A new way to 3D print, developed at the University of Michigan, uses two lights to control the solidification of resin – one to control where the resin hardens and another to help maintain its fluidity.
As the researchers highlight, the secret behind the technique is all in the chemistry.
Conventional methods rely on a photoactivator to harden the resin when light hits it. By adding in a photoinhibitor that responds to a different wavelength of light, the team is also able to keep the resin fluid when needed.
By creating a relatively large region where no solidification occurs, thicker resins – potentially with strengthening powder additives – can be used to produce more durable objects. The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers.
“You can get much tougher, much more wear-resistant materials,” Timothy Scott, an associate professor of chemical engineering and co-lead on the project said.
The university has filed patent applications on the technique. Scott is working on a start-up to bring the approach to market.