3D printing using light

A quirky approach to 3D printing from UC Berkeley that crafts light-sensitive goop into complex (if not yet particularly attractive) objects. From a press release:

Nicknamed the “replicator” by the inventors — after the Star Trek device that can materialize any object on demand — the 3D printer can create objects that are smoother, more flexible and more complex than what is possible with traditional 3D printers. It can also encase an already existing object with new materials — for instance, adding a handle to a metal screwdriver shaft — which current printers struggle to do.

See it in action here:

Now, the resulting objects in that video look a bit… imprecise. But that will get better. The breakthrough here is two fold. First, it’s much simpler and cheaper to shine a projector light into a spinning container of goop than it is to build most of the 3D printers we have today – which are essentially robots.

Second, current methods work by adding material layer-by-layer from the bottom up, which greatly limits flexibility. Researchers say this new method could help designers break free from that, making “3D printing truly three-dimensional”.

More from the press release:

“This is particularly satisfying for me, because it creates a new framework of volumetric or ‘all-at-once’ 3D printing that we have begun to establish over the recent years,” said Maxim Shusteff, a staff engineer at the Livermore lab. “We hope this will open the way for many other researchers to explore this exciting technology area.”