none

THE 3D PRINTER THAT CAN PRINT 10 MATERIALS AT ONCE

12-09-2015
by 
in 

The vast majority of 3D printers only work with one kind of source material (for example, plastic), which severely limits the complexity of the objects you can make.

But now, for the first time, US scientists have developed a 3D printer that can print with a record-breaking 10 materials at a time.

This means a whole new range of objects can be printed quickly and easily without requiring any manual post-print assembly of individually printed components.

While some existing industrial 3D printers can also print with multiple materials, they aren’t exactly cheap, carrying a price tag of US$250,000 plus.

Even then, they’ve been limited to a maximum of three materials at once.

The MultiFab printer, however, only cost its makers US$7,000 to build from scratch.

Developed by researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it features innovations that make 3D printing of complex objects easier than ever.

In addition to its ability to print with up to 10 source materials at once, the MultiFab uses machine vision 3D-scanning techniques that allow the printer to self-calibrate and guide itself as it prints.

“The platform opens up new possibilities for manufacturing, giving researchers and hobbyists alike the power to create objects that have previously been difficult or even impossible to print,” said Javier Ramos, one of the CSAIL research engineers who worked on the project, said in a media release.

Unlike material extrusion methods of 3D printing, which the researchers liken to using a syringe to apply cake frosting, the MultiFab printer mixes microscopic droplets of photopolymers together and prints with much finer printheads.

Together with the machine vision, this enables the printer to 3D-scan an object and then print directly around it with extreme precision.

The researchers say you could place an iPhone inside the printer and tell it to print a case directly onto the phone. Or you could start off with circuits and sensors and print around them, effectively embedding a functional electronic device at the heart of a new 3D-printed object.

“Right now a big portion of 3D printing, the hardware that’s available, is focused on printing form and objects for prototype,” says Ramos. “The holy grail is to print things that are fully functional right out of the printer, combining multiple materials with many different properties, but also existing objects that have some inherent functionality.”

The team’s paper, presented recently at the 42nd International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in the US, could have major implications for the way people make objects, with potential applications for researchers, personalised consumer items, or even mass-manufactured products.

“Picture someone who sells electric wine-openers, but doesn’t have $7,000 to buy a printer like this. In the future they could walk into a FedEx with a design and print out batches of their finished product at a reasonable price,” said Ramos. “For me, a practical use like that would be the ultimate dream.”

Related news & editorials

  1. 28.05.2018
    28.05.2018
    by      In
    A Melbourne-based incubator is looking for 50 new product originators to be mentored through a 9-month training programme designed to hone their product development and business skills.
    Billed as the only incubator in Melbourne to fill the manufacturing gap, Space Tank Studio will be running its “... Read More
  2. 28.05.2018
    28.05.2018
    by      In
    Western Australia has a new naval shipbuilder in the shape of the Australian Maritime Shipbuilding & Export Group, a joint venture between Luerssen and Civmec set up to build ten Offshore Patrol Vessels.
    In November 2017, Luerssen was chosen as the prime contractor to supply 12 OPVs to the Navy... Read More
  3. 24.05.2018
    24.05.2018
    by      In
    Rio Tinto has announced that Australia’s Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator has approved the autonomous operation of trains at its iron ore businesses in WA.
    After several years of regulatory hurdles, delays, and slowly increasing coverage of its automated haulage network of freight... Read More
  4. 24.05.2018
    24.05.2018
    by      In
    A new reactive battery system has been switched on, stabilising the power grid of a coastal town with wildly variable energy demands.
    The autonomous system is located in the fishing village of Cape Jervis, and is part of a $3.65 million power stabilisation trial that could lead to town batteries... Read More