A new 3D inkjet printing system developed by MIT and ETH Zurich researchers has demonstrated a significant advancement in smart 3D printing technology. This system, distinguished by its use of computer vision and a non-contact approach, allows for the use of a broader range of materials, including those that cure slowly.
The innovative printer employs high-frame-rate cameras and lasers to scan the printing surface, adjusting resin deposition in real-time. This approach eliminates the need for mechanical parts to smooth resin, enabling the use of materials with properties superior to traditional acrylates, such as greater elasticity and durability.
The printer’s ability to make on-the-fly adjustments without slowing down the process makes it considerably faster than conventional 3D inkjet printers. It has successfully fabricated complex robotic devices, integrating soft and rigid materials, such as a fully 3D printed, tendon-driven robotic hand. The vision-controlled jetting technique is precise enough to handle intricate designs and supports materials like wax for creating internal cavities.
Researchers have also experimented with thiol-based materials, which offer enhanced elasticity and stability compared to acrylates. This advancement opens up new possibilities for fabricating robots and other devices that interact with real-world environments. Future applications may include printing customizable medical devices, semiconductor polishing pads, and more sophisticated robots.
This development could lead to the introduction of new material families in 3D printing, expanding the scope of applications in fields like tissue engineering and robotics. The system’s ability to handle a diverse range of materials and intricate designs promises a future where 3D printing can create more complex, durable, and functional devices.
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