Although 3D printing — or direct digital manufacturing — has the potential to revolutionize various industries by providing faster, cheaper, and more accurate manufacturing options, fabrication time and the complexity of multimaterial objects have been a longtime hurdle to its widespread use in the marketplace.

With a newly developed printing process, USC Viterbi Professor Yong Chen and his team have shaved the fabrication time down to minutes. In the MIP-SL process, a 3-D digital model of an object is sliced by a set of horizontal planes, and each slice is converted into a two-dimensional mask image. The mask image is then projected onto a photocurable liquid resin surface and light is projected onto the resin to cure it in the shape of the related layer.

The USC Viterbi team also developed a two-way movement design for bottom-up projection so the resin could be quickly spread into uniform thin layers. As a result, production time was cut from hours to a few minutes. In its latest paper, the team successfully applies this more efficient process to the fabrication of heterogeneous objects that comprise different materials that cure at different rates.

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Also: NASA's Next Rover Features 3D-Printed Parts.