A Californian start-up has created a 3D printer that is claimed to be able to print solid resin parts with feature sizes less that 20 microns and at speeds 25 to 100 times faster than what’s on the market currently.
3DPrint reports that Carbon3D, based in Redwood City, has created a printer with similarities to existing stereolithography (or SLA, patented by 3D Systems founder Chuck Hull in 1986) in that it cures polymer with a light source.
However, it cures a part as a solid shape rather than layer by layer, using a special permeable window that exposes the object to light and oxygen. The latter inhibits curing, creating a “dead zone” with an accuracy tunable to 10 microns, according to Carbon3D.
It calls the invention CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production).
Company founder Professor Joseph DeSimone said there were huge speed and quality benefits over current 3D printing methods.
"First up, the name is a misnomer. It is really 2D printing over and over again," BBC quotes DeSimone, a chemist at University of North Carolina, as telling an audience at a TED event in Vancouver.
"There are mushrooms that grow faster than some 3D-printed parts."
The company has so far attracted backing from Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake Kraftwerk, with $US 41 million in funding achieved so far.
“If 3D printing hopes to break out of the prototyping niche it has been trapped in for decades, we need to find a disruptive technology that attacks the problem from a fresh perspective and addresses 3D printing’s fundamental weaknesses,” Jim Goetz, a Carbon3D board member and Sequoia partner told 3Dprint.com.
“When we met Joe and saw what his team had invented, it was immediately clear to us that 3D printing would never be the same.”
Depending on the size of a part, printing can be finished in minutes, rather than hours.
The journal Nature reports Carbon3D’s CMO as saying the firm hopes to make their machines commercially available within a year.