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Volumetric 3D Printing

New Atlas reports on the development of volumetric 3D printing.  This new super-fast 3D printing process was developed by a team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Volumetric 3D printing “uses hologram-like lasers to make complete objects in seconds inside a tank of liquid resin…[this] process overcomes many of the limitations of conventional additive manufacturing.”

These limitations include long print times, ridging, and temporary structures for support during the actual printing processes.  Volumetric 3D printing bypasses all this by creating “the entire object simultaneously.  [This occurs] by using three overlapping lasers beamed in a hologram-like pattern into a transparent tank filled with photosetting plastic resin.  A short exposure by a single beam isn’t enough to cure the resin in a short time, but combining three lasers can induce curing in about ten seconds.  After the object is formed, the excess resin is then drained off to reveal the complete unit.”

So far, the researchers have used volumetric 3D printing to produce “squares, beams, [geometric] planes, struts at arbitrary angles, lattices, and complex, curved objects.”   However, the team points out this processes’ limitations when it comes to producing more complex shapes with higher resolutions.  “The hope is the development of more responsive polymers will not only allow for larger objects with higher resolution, but also the printing of objects out of ultralightweight hydrogels.  In addition, volumetric 3D printing works in weightlessness, making it useful for manufacturing aboard spacecraft.”

As LLNL Engineer Chris Spadaccini concludes: “[The development of volumetric 3D printing is] a demonstration of what the next generation of additive manufacturing may be.  Most 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies consist of either a one-dimensional or two-dimensional unit operation.  This moves fabrication to a fully 3D operation, which has not been done before.  The potential impact on throughput could be enormous and if you can do it well, you can still have a lot of complexity.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of New Atlas

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