Engineers at Northwestern University have developed a new technique that uses light to improve the speed and accuracy of 3D printing.

Most conventional 3D printing processes rely on reproducing a digital design model that is cut into layers. Moreover, the layers are printed and assembled like a cake.

The new method introduces the ability to manipulate the original design layer by layer and rotate the print direction without recreating the model. This feature allows more complex structures to be printed and greatly increases production flexibility.

In a new article, the researchers demonstrate several applications of the new development, in particular for printing a customized vascular stent and a soft pneumatic grip.

A new dynamic 3D printing method developed at Northwestern University uses light and a high-precision robotic arm to print various structures. To do this, the authors use a robotic arm and a liquid photopolymer, which is activated by light.

Light falling on a liquid polymer causes it to crosslink or polymerize: the liquid turns into a solid. This contributes to the speed and accuracy of the 3D printing process. The continuous printing process allows 4 thousand layers to be printed in approximately two minutes.