USC Researchers Speed Up Multi-Material Printing

A new 3D printing process offers dramatically faster print times for multi-material models.

3d printing, speed, multi-material, resin, photo, cure, breakthroughResearchers at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering have developed a faster multi-material 3D printing technique.

Although 3D Printing has been around for more than two decades, industries have been hesitant to adopt the technology. One of the most common complaints from manufacturers being that 3D printing takes too long.

In an effort to solve this problem, Yong Chen, a USC professor, has been working on optimizing current 3D printing techniques. In fact, last year Chen and his team announced that they had improved a homogeneous 3D printing process called mask-image-projection-based stereolithography (MIP-SL) by dramatically reducing the method’s print times. Buoyed by this breakthrough, Chen’s lab extended their research towards developing a faster multi-material 3D printing process.

In MIP-SL a CAD model is taken from a computer and sliced into a number of horizontal sections. From these sections a “mask-image” is created and then projected onto a bath of liquid resin. Once exposed, the resin is cured by light and the process begins anew.

Chen’s stroke of genius came in his development of a two-way projection method, which can build a model from both ends or be used to set multi-material models that require variable cure-times.

“Digital material design and fabrication enables controlled material distributions of multiple base materials in a product component for significantly improved design performance. Such fabrication capability opens up exciting new options that were previously impossible,” said Chen.

Methods like Yong Chen’s two-way projection method will be important for the development of a robust 3D printing industry. If manufacturers know they can create complex, high-resolution, multi-material parts in a single process, 3D printing may be able to finally make a stand in the world of mass-production.

Image & Video Courtesy of USC