Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
    Revolutionizing 3D Printing: Contact-Free Technology Opens Doors for High-Performance Materials

    A new breakthrough in 3D printing technology is set to revolutionize the industry by enabling engineers to work with high-performance materials that were previously inaccessible. Researchers from MIT spinout Inkbit and ETH Zurich have developed a contact-free 3D inkjet printing system that utilizes computer vision to control the amount of material being printed in real-time.

    Traditional 3D inkjet printing systems use thousands of nozzles to deposit resin droplets, which are then smoothed and cured with UV light. However, the smoothing process can cause issues for materials that cure slowly, which limits the range of materials that can be used. The new system eliminates the need for mechanical parts to smooth the resin, allowing engineers to work with a much wider range of materials.

    By incorporating computer vision technology, the printer can automatically scan the printing surface and adjust the amount of resin each nozzle deposits to ensure uniformity. This real-time adjustment prevents areas from having too much or too little material, resulting in high-quality prints. The system continues to make adjustments without stopping or slowing down the printing process, making it approximately 660 times faster than comparable systems.

    With this cutting-edge technology, engineers can now fabricate hybrid structures that combine soft and rigid components. For example, they can develop robotic grippers that are both strong enough to handle heavy objects and soft enough to interact safely with humans. This advancement opens the door to a range of applications in various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, and robotics.

    In addition to its speed and versatility, the system offers superior control and precision. It can print intricate designs with wax, which is used as a support material for creating complex channels and cavities in objects. The printer can also work with slower-curing materials like thiol-based compounds, which offer enhanced elasticity and durability compared to traditional acrylates.

    This contact-free 3D inkjet printing system represents a significant leap forward in the capabilities of additive manufacturing. By harnessing the power of computer vision, engineers can now create functional and high-performance objects with unprecedented speed and precision. The potential applications for this technology are vast, and it is poised to shape the future of 3D printing.


    1. What is contact-free 3D printing?

    Contact-free 3D printing refers to a manufacturing process where the printing system does not physically touch the printed object. Instead, the printer utilizes other methods, such as computer vision, to control the deposition of material.

    2. How does computer vision technology enhance 3D printing?

    Computer vision technology enables the printer to scan the printing surface and adjust the amount of material being deposited in real-time. This ensures uniformity and prevents any areas from having too much or too little material.

    3. What are the advantages of using high-performance materials in 3D printing?

    High-performance materials, such as thiol-based compounds, offer benefits like enhanced elasticity, durability, and stability over a wider temperature range. These materials can be used to create objects that are more resilient and have superior performance characteristics.

    4. What industries can benefit from this contact-free 3D printing technology?

    This technology has applications in various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, robotics, and more. It enables the development of complex structures and functional objects that were previously not possible with traditional 3D printing methods.