Fast new 3D printing method creates objects as big as an adult human

Science | AAAS | 10/17/2019 | Staff
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Chemists Joseph DeSimone and Chad Mirkin have known each other for decades. They’re such good friends that they’ve even vacationed together on the North Carolina coast. But now, Mirkin is doing his best to put DeSimone, CEO of a well-known 3D printing company, out of work. Today, Mirkin and his colleagues at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, announced they’ve created a 3D printer that builds the largest ever objects to date at high speeds—an advance that could revolutionize the manufacturing of car and airplane parts, and undermine DeSimone’s business, called Carbon.

Still, DeSimone says, “I love seeing the innovation in this field.” And he’s not worried about competition; when it comes to making finished products for customers, he says, the size of the printer is “just the beginning.” Mirkin’s technology has a long way to go to prove its worth on the market. Nevertheless, Michael McAlpine, a chemist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who was not involved with the work, describes it as “a pretty significant advance.”

Printing - Start - Today - Version - Plastic

3D printing got its start in the early 1980s. Today, the most common version uses light to cure a liquid plastic resin, layer by layer, into a solid. After the first layer is cured and pulled away from the printer, the projector illuminates the pattern onto a new layer that cures and joins to the first. 3D printers are precise enough to create far more intricate designs than most traditional manufacturing processes. Yet, early 3D printing was slow, often taking the better part of a day to manufacture objects the size of a coffee cup. Another problem was that the interfaces between the layers were structurally weak, making finished objects fragile.

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Advance - DeSimone - University - North

A key advance came in 2015 when DeSimone, then at the University of North...
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