Northwestern University engineers have developed a new 3D printer that can produce an object the size of an adult human in two hours.
According to The Engineer, the HARP 3D printer also helps overcome issues pertaining to overheating.
“3D printing is conceptually powerful but has been limited practically,” says Northwestern professor and HARP’s development head, Chad A. Mirkin.
“If we could print fast without limitations on materials and size, we could revolutionize manufacturing. HARP is poised to do that.”
HARP prints vertically and uses projected ultraviolet light to cure the liquid resins into hardened plastic. The new printer can thus print pieces that are hard, elastic or ceramic.
According to The Engineer, these continually printed parts are said to be mechanically robust and can be used in a wide range of products, including cars and aircraft.
Resin-based 3D printers are known to generate a lot of heat when running at fast speeds; this leads to dangerously hot surface temperatures and potential cracks and deformations in printed parts.
The Northwestern team has managed to bypasses this problem with a non-stick liquid that behaves like liquid Teflon.
While HARP projects light through a window to solidify resin on top of a vertically moving plate, the liquid Teflon is made to flow over the window to remove heat.
It is then circulated back through a cooling unit.
According to James Hedrick, another co-author of the study, the new interface is also also non-stick and this keeps the resin from adhering to the printer itself.
“This increases the printer’s speed by a hundredfold because the parts do not have to be repeatedly cleaved from the bottom of the print-vat,” notes Hedrick.
HARP is claimed to be the first printer that can handle large batches and large parts in addition to small parts.
“When you can print fast and large, it can really change the way we think about manufacturing,” says Mirkin.
“With HARP, you can build anything you want without molds and without a warehouse full of parts. You can print anything you can imagine on-demand.”
Image and content: Northwestern University via The Engineer