Remember that iconic scene from Terminator 2 where the shape-shifting T-1000 rises from a pool of metallic liquid? If you don’t, a new 3D printing machine unveiled earlier this week at the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Vancouver, Canada, might help jog your memory.
Unlike conventional 3D printers, which basically carry out 2D printing over and over again to create an object made of layers, a new printer created by Carbon3D actually creates objects in three dimensions -- thanks to a projector-like ultraviolet light source and an oxygen-permeable membrane. As a result, it creates fully-formed objects that appear to materialize out of a bath of liquid resin, much like the robot in the movie.
“Current 3D printing technology has failed to deliver on its promise to revolutionize manufacturing,” Joseph DeSimone, CEO and co-founder of Carbon3D, which manufactured the new printer, said, in a statement.
The new printer uses a mechanism known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production technology (CLIP) and is 25 to 100 times faster than conventional 3D printers that use a plastic filament wound onto a spool to create layers. This process is not only infuriatingly slow, it also creates objects that are mechanically weak because of the presence of multiple layers.
“There are mushrooms that grow faster than some 3D-printed parts,” DeSimone, who is also a chemist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reportedly said.
“Our CLIP technology offers the game-changing speed, consistent mechanical properties and choice of materials required for complex commercial quality parts,” DeSimone added, in the statement.
The Carbon3D machine works by controlling the resin's exposure to ultraviolet light and oxygen. The light hardens the resin while oxygen prevents the hardening. The printer consists of a resin-holding container that is permeable to oxygen at the bottom. By inhibiting the solidification of resin, oxygen creates a “dead zone” tens of microns thick at the bottom of the container -- a region where the resin stays liquid even when subjected to ultraviolet rays. The process of solidification occurs just above this dead zone. As a result, because liquid is always present below the slowly forming object, the process can continue in a continuous, rapid manner, creating smooth objects with no visible striations.
“When you operate this way, you can go really fast,” DeSimone reportedly said.
However, if you are hoping to create your own T-1000, you will have to wait for at least a year for the Carbon3D machine to become commercially available.