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The World’s Fastest 3D Printer?

Tech Radar reports on a team of scientists working at Northwestern University. Apparently, this Northwestern University team have developed the ‘HARP 3D printer,’ which they claim is the world’s fastest 3D printer to date.

HARP is an acronym for ‘high-area rapid printing.’ The HARP 3D printer “has a print bed with a footprint of 2.5 square-feet and is 13-feet tall.” Additionally, “it can print an object the size of an adult human in a couple of hours.”

This is because the HARP 3D printer is “capable of printing objects vertically at a speed of half a yard (just under half a meter) per hour, which represents a record level of throughput in 3D printing.”

As one of the Northwestern researchers, David Walker, has observed: “obviously there are many types of 3D printers out there – you see printers making buildings, bridges and car bodies, and conversely you see printers making small parts at very high resolutions. We’re excited because this is the largest and highest throughput printer in its class.” The HARP 3D printer is “particularly useful for speedily printing large parts, or a whole bunch of different small parts simultaneously.”

To ensure this all works, the team at Northwestern University developed the HARP to be a 3D printer utilizing stereolithography. As we’re sure you’ll remember, stereolithography is a “3D printing process whereby liquid resin is cured and hardened into a solid object by projected ultraviolet light.”

The team had a problem though. Using conventional printing methods, “resin-based 3D printers generate a great deal of heat. The faster the device prints – and the bigger the object is – the more these struggles with temperatures becoming increasingly difficult to manage, leading to the printed object potentially ending up deformed or cracked.”

The team overcame this obstacle by “using a non-stick liquid, which has been dubbed ‘Liquid Teflon.’ Essentially, HARP projects ultraviolet light through a window to harden the resin on a vertically moving plate, and the Liquid Teflon flows over this window, removing heat and subsequently circulating it through a cooling unit.” The heat is thus removed.

As the team’s leader, Chad A. Mirkin, concludes: “when you can print fast and large, it can really change the way we think about manufacturing. With HARP, you can build anything you want without molds and without a warehouse full of parts. You can print anything you can imagine on-demand.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Tech Radar

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