Stanford researchers have developed a new 3D printing method: iCLIP technology, which promises to produce prints faster by combining multiple types of resin into a single object. Their design, recently published in Science Advances, is five to 10 times faster than the fastest high-resolution printing method currently available and may allow researchers to use thicker resins with better mechanical and electrical properties.
“This new technology will help make the most of the potential of 3D printing. It will allow us to print much faster, helping to usher in a new era of digital fabrication, as well as enabling the fabrication of complex multi-material objects in a single step.”
– Joseph DeSimone, Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professor in Translational Medicine and Professor of Radiology and Chemical Engineering at Stanford and corresponding author of the article
Resin flow control
The new design improves on a 3D printing method developed by DeSimone and colleagues in 2015 known as continuous liquid interface production, or CLIP. CLIP 3D printing involves the use of ultraviolet light to cure (harden) a liquid photosensitive resin that is held in a container over the light. The build platform is initially submerged in liquid resin before being pulled up to literally lift the 3D object out of the resin. Unlike other resin 3D printing methods, this is a continuous process achieved by adding a layer of oxygen to the bottom of the pool known as the “Dead Zone”, which prevents the resin from curing to the bottom where it remains in liquid form. .
However, ‘continuous printing’ does not always occur, particularly when the part is moving up too fast or the resin is particularly sticky. The researchers used this new method, called CLIP or iCLIP injection, to add additional resin at key points by mounting syringe pumps on top of the rising platform.
“The resin flow in CLIP is a very passive process: you are simply lifting the object and hoping that the suction can bring the material to the area where it is needed. With this new technology, we actively inject resin into the areas of the printer where it is needed.”
– Gabriel Lipkowitz, Stanford mechanical engineering doctoral student and lead author of the paper
Multi-material printing with iCLIP technology
By injecting additional resin separately, iCLIP allows you to print with multiple types of resin at the same time; each new resin simply requires its own syringe. The printer was tested with up to three different syringes, each filled with a different colored resin. They were successful in printing models of famous buildings from various countries in the colors of their respective flags, including Saint Sophia Cathedral in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag and Independence Hall in American red, white and blue.
After showing that iCLIP can print with multiple resins, DeSimone, Lipkowitz and their colleagues are developing software to optimize the fluid distribution network layout for each printed part. They want to give designers fine control over the boundaries between resin types, which could further speed up the printing process.
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