Check out this new 3-D printing technique developed by Carbon3D, Inc. Current 3D printers form each layer individually with a point extruder from the bottom up. Carbon3D’s printer pulls its creations out of a liquid polymer bath, forming each layer from the top down! See it in action!
I want one.
The technique is called Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP), and it allows for complex geometries to be printed at unprecedented speed. According to Carbon3D’s website, CLIP printing is 25 to 100 times faster than the current technology.
At these speeds, it also allows for much finer resolution. From the publication in Science, CLIP printing speed is limited by the resin cure rate and viscosity, not by stepwise layer formation. The printing resolution was reported to be as fine as 50 microns.
The CLIP process works by carefully controlling the rate of photon and oxygen delivery to the continually forming layers. At the bottom of the liquid polymer pool, there is a UV light image source and an oxygen permeable membrane. The UV light initiates polymerization, allowing the solid plastic to form. As the printer pulls the plastic out of the pool, the UV image changes continuously, like a movie, to create the shape of each forming layer. Oxygen is allowed to permeate through the membrane and compete with the UV polymerization. Oxygen keeps the polymer in the liquid phase at the boundary between the polymer and the permeable membrane. This allows new polymer to flow directly under the layers as they form and pull away.
You may have noticed CLIP’s resemblance to the liquid metal terminator from Terminator II: Judgement Day. According to The Washington Post, the idea for CLIP was inspired by the scene of the terminator’s self assembly from a pool of molten metal. There’s no need to fear though, CLIP printing can’t generate self-aware machines on a mission to destroy humanity. Yet.