Here are the 3D Printing Breakthroughs you Need to Know About

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3d printing breakthroughs
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3D printing tech has been making waves for over a decade, but we’re still waiting on that tidal wave. Let’s take a look at some important recent breakthroughs in 3D printing tech.

3D printing is advancing rapidly. That, in turn, is helping to fuel Industry 4.0 by providing new materials for purposes ranging from engineering to medicine.

Oh, and it can be fun. Let’s not forget for one moment that 3D printing has become something of a hobby for many people.

One art student has even developed a third thumb to enhance all of our prehensile activities.

But while we are all having fun, researchers are hard at work making 3D printing breakthroughs that expand what is possible. To that end, I think it’s time that we give some of the most promising 3D printing breakthroughs some attention.

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Wonder is Skin Deep

Our first stop is South Korea, where scientists have developed a new technique for 3D printing human skin.

There have been plenty of approaches for developing synthetic skin, but this one is unique in its use of 3D printing techniques. See, while other methods require multiple steps, these researchers designed and developed a hybrid 3D cell-printing technique that works in a single step.

So, in the future, if you ever find yourself in need of skin grafts, you may not need to worry. Doctors may be able to print them right up for you, and the process might not even be that expensive. The hybrid 3D cell-printing system is far more conservative than other methods when it comes to materials.

According to Professor Dong-Woo Cho, the lead author of the study, “Significantly, our new method is around 50 times cheaper than alternative methods, and requires 10 times less base material.”

I always love to see modern medical miracles, so I’m excited to see what comes out of this research. But I’ve seen what it’s like when someone needs a skin graft. If you’ve seen that, then I’m pretty sure that you’re excited as well.

Next, we’re moving on to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), where we can get some good optics.

Printing Glass

A team of LLNL researchers have recently achieved a breakthrough in optical research: 3D printed glass.

LLNL

Specifically, the researchers showed how they could use 3D printing to synthesize glass. That’s a big deal, especially considering that it allows the creation of previously impossible structures of glass. Naturally, this could be a huge step forward in the field of optical research.

There have been other attempts at 3D printing glass, but they rely on using molten glass. The researchers at LLNL used custom inks made from suspended glass particles instead, allowing them to print at room temperature instead. Because of this, scientists can now print glass that flattens different refractive indices down to a single flat optic.

That means that all of the special shapes in lenses may not be necessary in the future. This may not seem like a big deal, but consider how optics are used these days. Everything from your camera to television and movies is brought to us via the magic of optic technologies. If you revolutionize those, then you revolutionize how we view the world.

How’s that for a new perspective?

The CLIP Technique

This one is kind of meta. This breakthrough in 3D printing is more of a revolution in method than product. It is an entirely new method of 3D printing from a company called Carbon3D, and it’s called Continuous Liquid Interface Production, or CLIP.

Carbon3D

When you think of 3D printing, you are probably thinking of the current methods where something is printed in 2D layers from the ground up. Those methods are great for prototyping, but they’re a bit old. The most common method was patented in 1989, after all.

If you get a bit more advanced than that, you have Digital Light Projection, or DLP. DLP uses a vat and a projector to form a 3D printed object within a vat of resin.

I’d say that nothing is wrong with either of these methods, but there is. They are slow. And that’s where CLIP comes in to save the day.

CLIP is a variation on the DLP method. The projector in the DLP method has to pass through a clear glass plate, but with CLIP, that plate is replaced with a barrier that oxygen can cross. And that makes it much, much faster. About a hundred times faster, in fact.

And it gets better. CLIP avoids that layering technique that other 3D printing methods use, which allows them to print with all kinds of materials and designs. They can make rigid plastics, sure, but they can also make something that can bounce.

3D printing is world-changing, and that’s why it is such an exciting technology. For my part, I’m keeping my eye on this tech. I want to see how close we can get to Star Trek’s replicator in my lifetime.

Which 3D printing breakthroughs did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!

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