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New Process Speeds 3-D Printing of Multiple Materials

Yong Chen

Yong Chen (Univ. of Southern California)

Engineers at University of Southern California in Los Angeles developed a new, faster technique for three-dimensional printing of objects made with multiple materials. Industrial engineering professor Yong Chen and colleagues from USC described their process yesterday at a meeting of the engineering organization ASME in San Diego.

Despite the promise and potential of 3-D printing and additive manufacturing, the fabrication of objects from multiple materials remains an obstacle, requiring hours to create a finished complex solid object from a digital model. Chen says his process that accommodates models needing materials of different properties can cut that time period to minutes.

Chen and colleagues adapted a process called  mask-image-projection-based stereolithography that slices a 3-D model into horizontal planes and converts each slice into a 2-D mask image. That image is then projected onto a photocurable liquid resin surface. When light is beamed on the resin, the resin is cured into the shape of the respective slice from the model.

In addition, Chen’s team enhanced the projection method, by adding a two-way movement design for layering the resin, to spread it faster in uniform layers. The researchers say in tests the process, they produced robotics and dental models in a few minutes.

Chen and colleagues are now looking into development of an automated design method when using multiple materials, as well as cutting the fabrication time even further. In the following video, Chen tells more about the enhanced 3-D printing process.

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