The next generation of 3D printers has just been released, and they use a liquid technology so futuristic you might think they came out of Terminator 2.
The company is called Carbon 3D, and their new M1 3D printers, being shown off in the video above, are not only almost 100x faster than the previous generation’s technology, but finally allow production-quality prints in materials with a wide range of chemical and physical properties. Previous printers have been used primarily for prototyping (although some commercial-scale units can produce production-quality designs).
And they are now available for leasing, although they will set you back $40,000 per year.
Unlike 3D printers which deposit layer after layer of material on top of each other (usually made of plastic filament), the Carbon machines extract an item from a pool of liquid resin. It’s spookily high-tech when you watch it in action.
The method for creating a solid shape out of a liquid bath is that Carbon 3D has developed advanced CLIP technology to control not only the Ultraviolet light used to react with the resin, but the oxygen levels which influence the reactions, using a semi-permeable glass and calibrated software. This control helps them to refine the shape of objects (reducing the “layering effect” of additive manufacturing 3D printers) and even the chemical properties.
Here is a TED talk given by Joseph DeSimone, CEO & Co-Founder, introducing the world to the technology:
Once an object is printed (or should I say extracted?) then a final heat treatment will set the chemistry to determine the final mechanical properties. By using different resins, this machine can therefore produce industrial strength components which can handle temperatures of several hundred degrees (which prototyping 3D models cannot), or elastic structures which bend in all directions.
So, is 3D printing finally going to revolutionise all of our lives? It is already being embraced by some of the largest companies in the world, but for smaller entrepreneurs and individuals there are still some significant challenges.
I have previously interviewed Jon Fidler, Head Designer at London-based 3D Printing design consultants Modla. In the interview shown below, the main limitation which still holds true to this day is that 3D printing requires an ability to design and manipulate objects in 3D using specialised software. This is still out of reach of most people, although the software is becoming more affordable and easy to use over time, but it will probably be many years before it reaches the mainstream.
So is this the final stage in 3D printing technology? Can anything be faster or better in any way?
One even younger startup thinks they can.
NewPro3D is a Canadian Startup which has a competing technology called ILI, which it claims is significantly faster than even Carbon3D’s.
Not only that, but it claims that its technology can scale to any size, even suggesting that they could print twelve 25-foot long wind turbine blades in 16 hours.
The technology appears to not be as mature as Carbon3d’s yet, currently focusing on only small-scale models, but here is an interview from CES 2016 which highlights these claims.
Either way, this year promises to be a great milestone in the development of 3D printing.
Let’s hope the Terminators aren’t watching.
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