Researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering have developed a faster 3D printing process and are now using it to model and fabricate heterogeneous objects, which comprise multiple materials.
Although 3D printing – or direct digital manufacturing – has the potential to revolutionize various industries by providing faster, cheaper and more accurate manufacturing options, fabrication time and the complexity of multi-material objects have long been a hurdle to its widespread use in the marketplace. With this newly developed 3D printing process, however, USC Viterbi professor Yong Chen and his team have shaved the fabrication time down to minutes, bringing the manufacturing world one step closer to achieving its goal.
USC Viterbi researchers developed improved mask-image-projection-based stereolithography (MIP-SL) to drastically speed up the fabrication of homogeneous 3D objects. In the MIP-SL process, a 3D digital model of an object is sliced by a set of horizontal planes and each slice is converted into a two-dimensional mask image.
The mask image is then projected onto a photocurable liquid resin surface and light is projected onto the resin to cure it in the shape of the related layer.
The USC Viterbi team also developed a two-way movement design for bottom-up projection so that the resin could be quickly spread into uniform thin layers. As a result, production time was cut from hours to a few minutes.