Invention could break 3D printing out of prototyping

A Californian start-up has created a 3D printer that is claimed to be able to print solid resin parts with feature sizes less than 20 microns and at speeds 25 to 100 times faster than what’s on the market currently.

3DPrintreports that Carbon3D, based in Redwood City, has created a printer with similarities to existing stereolithography (or SLA, patented by 3D Systems founder Chuck Hull in 1986) in that it cures polymer with a light source.

However, it cures a part as a solid shape rather than layer by layer, using a special permeable window that exposes the object to light and oxygen. The latter inhibits curing, creating a “dead zone” with an accuracy tunable to 10 microns, according to Carbon3D.

It calls the invention CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production).

Company founder Professor Joseph DeSimone said there were huge speed and quality benefits over current 3D printing methods. He also is dismissive of current 3D printing claiming it is a misnomer and say it is really 2D printing over and over again. There are mushrooms, he says, that grow faster than some 3D-printed parts.

A Carbon3D investor said that if 3D printing hopes to break out of the prototyping niche it has been trapped in for decades, a disruptive technology that attacks the problem from a fresh perspective and addresses 3D printing’s fundamental weaknesses, needs to be found.

Carbon3D hopes, according to reports, to make its machines commercially available within a year. The company has so far attracted backing from Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake Kraftwerk, with $US 41 million in funding achieved so far.