Researchers at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed a new method to create small soft objects using a laser and a liquid photo-sensitive polymer. Christened volumetric 3D-printing, the technique, which is particularly rapid, has potential applications in a wide range of fields, including bioprinting.
An online video shows an object taking shape in a rotating tube of photo-sensitive liquid polymer which solidifies when it absorbs light. The technique, based on tomography algorithms used in medical imaging, can produce precisely sculpted small objects in record time.
The team has also published a study entitled “High-resolution tomographic volumetric additive manufacturing” in Nature Communication vaunting the merits of the new technique, which is ten times faster than standard layer-by-layer 3D-printing.
The new technology could have applications in a range of fields, notably in medicine and biology. Being able to produce an object in a single piece allows for the printing of different textures, like tissues and bodily organs, and also hearing implants and dental guards.
As it stands, the researchers claim to be able to produce structures of up to 2 centimeters, with a precision of 80 micrometres, but with time they plan on scaling up to 15 centimetres.
The new patent-pending technology has now been entrusted to a dedicated start-up, Readily3D