Vision-Assisted 'MultiFab' Printer Can 3D Print Ten Materials At Once


Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a 3D printer that can print an unprecedented ten different materials at once by using 3D-scanning techniques that save time, energy, and money. Delivering resolution at 40 microns - less than half the width of a human hair - the 'MultiFab' system is the first 3D printer to use 3D-scanning techniques from machine vision, which offers two key advantages in accuracy and convenience over traditional 3D printing. First, MultiFab can self-calibrate and self-correct, freeing users from having to do the fine-tuning themselves. For each layer of the design, the system's feedback loop 3D scans and detects errors and then generates 'correction masks.' This approach allows the use of inexpensive hardware while ensuring print accuracy. Secondly, MultiFab gives users the ability to embed complex components, such as circuits and sensors, directly onto the body of an object, meaning that it can produce a finished product with moving parts in one step. The researchers have used MultiFab to print everything from smartphone cases to LED lenses, and they envision an array of applications in consumer electronics, microsensing, medical imaging, and telecommunications.