Just when you had your mind blown by the miracle that is 3D printing, recent advancements in the technology have just made this form of production even more unfathomable.
Ok, let’s backtrack for those who don’t have a mechanical engineering degree. Makerbot is the leading company that is currently streamlining 3D printer technology and utilizes a process that prints/layers plastic on top of itself in specific pattern to form a shape, one thin slab of plastic at a time. Naturally this layering process opens itself up issues like uneven edges, and a weak overall structure. But now a new toy in town called Carbon3D offers an impressive production of printing from the top down using a resin liquid that hardens when exposed to UV light. Yea, I know. Allow me to explain further with helpful illustrations.
Basically, a UV projector underneath a pool of this specialized resin shoots blasts of patterned UV rays into the liquid while an overhead platform simultaneously pulls the structure out while it hardens into a shape. Surprisingly this process is nothing new but modeled after a technology called stereolithography which has been about 30 years in the making. Joseph DeSimone, a professor at University of North Carolina, has improved the process with some advancements, like a sheet of air-permeable glass (much like a contact lens) that allows a controlled amount of oxygen to seep in, keeping the structure form hardening too soon.
Carbon3D is already garnering a ton of attention not only by its novel inception of pulling plastic structures from liquid bath, the processing time of production is already 100 times faster than leading 3-D and stereolithographic printers. The potential is already astronomical, as well. There are plans to utilize this technology for creating light-weight parts for the aeronautical industry and therefore increasing fuel efficiency in planes. Also, applications in the medical field would allow say, custom molds in dental offices or emergency implants in hospitals to be printed on the spot.