This Record-Breaking 3D Printer Could Be the Future of Manufacturing

This specialized 3D printer just received
a record-breaking throughput for modern 3D printing. It can create structures the size of a human
adult in just a few hours. That’s printing about 7 millimeters per
minute. With this device, the team may have just cracked
the code on how to utilize the technology as an efficient manufacturing tool. This means we will finally have the fast,
precise and versatile 3D printing device we have all been waiting for. It just took a little bit of thermostatic
control to get there. Let’s rewind a bit. Firstly, this particular 3D printing process
is called Stereolithography or SLA. SLA printing is considered one of the higher-end
3D printing technologies because the objects can have smooth detailed features, with obvious
precision, and can be made with a variety of materials. They work by using a light-reactive thermoset
resin, which, when exposed to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light, polymerizes. So layer by layer, the object is solidified
while pulled out vertically from a vat of resin. As awesome as these printers are, researchers have had
trouble making the machines larger and faster. CHAD MIRKIN: So here’s the interesting thing
when you go fast and you go large, you can really change the way we think about manufacturing. If you really want to be able to make inroads,
you want to be able to make large batches and large parts in addition to small parts. That’s what this printer allows you to do. Their machine is known as HARP—short for
high-area rapid printing. Its success hinges on its innovative design,
one that’s capable of thermostatic control of the giant vat of liquid. CHAD MIRKIN: We have a liquid, think of it
as liquid Teflon, that basically flows over the glass window, that the light is shining
through to generate the part that nonstick liquid is keeping the part from adhering to
the window, allowing you to continuously print, which gives you speed, and it is removing
the heat, as it’s generated. So we’re almost unlimited in terms of size,
and in principle. With HARP’s fluorinated oil, it can
do it with at least three different kinds: hard plastic, elastic rubber, or ceramic. CHAD MIRKIN: We can make all sorts of materials
that are important in the medical industry, we’re talking about the dental industry to
tennis shoes soles to car parts to airplane parts. We can make construction parts, really almost anything that you can imagine and make out
of polymer precursors and that’s a lot of materials.” And its special features don’t stop there. HARP is also able to print both large and
small items, which is unprecedented in the 3D printing world. Usually the size of the printer determines
the tasks that it can handle and it varies from waiting for hours to days for a final
product. All together, HARP is reportedly said to be
the largest and highest throughput printer in its class. So, where do we go from here? CHAD MIRKIN: The amazing thing about this
technology is the pace at which it’s being developed. We’re going to have commercial printers within
18 months. We are now on a Gen three printer that actually
prints even higher quality structures than what we have in the science paper. Pretty exciting and really rapid development. Up until this point, 3D printing has been
restricted practically, while remaining powerful in its conception. With a printer like this, the team could be
spearheading a future without limitations. If you liked this episode, check out our other
one about a light printer that instead of printing layer-by-layer, it does it all
at once using nothing but a projector and some high performance resin. Make sure to subscribe, thanks so much for
watching and I’ll see you next time.