Manufacturing & Prototyping
Laser Technique Enables Multi-Materials 3D Printing for Circuit Boards and More
Selective laser sintering (SLS) is one of the more widely used 3D printing processes; it prints parts out of micron-scale material powders using a laser, and the laser heats the particles to the point where they fuse together to form a solid mass. SLS technologies have been limited to printing with a single material at a time, but now researchers at Columbia University have developed an approach to overcome these limitations. By inverting the laser so that it points upwards, they've invented a way to enable SLS to use multiple materials. “This technology has the potential to print embedded circuits, electromechanical components, and even robot components. It could make machine parts with graded alloys, whose material composition changes gradually from end to end, such as a turbine blade with one material used for the core and different material used for the surface coatings,” says Hod Lipson, Columbia professor of mechanical engineering.