Electric 3D Printing Begins!

The first (simulated) Electric 3D Print [Source: RepRap Ltd]

There is a radically new and incredibly powerful 3D printing process under development: Electric 3D Printing.

The concept is the brainchild of noted 3D printing pioneer Dr. Adrian Bowyer, who just happens to be the father of the RepRap project. That project eventually resulted in the desktop 3D printing industry, so when Dr. Bowyer develops something new, it is important to pay attention.

Electric 3D Printing

We’ve written about his Electric 3D printing concept previously, but if you haven’t read our stories, here are the basics.

It’s a combination of three different technologies, all wrapped together to form “electric 3D printing”.

The first technology is reverse CT-scan printing, which has been developed by a team from Berkeley. Essentially they are performing a CT scan in reverse. Instead of capturing 2D x-ray images from numerous different orientations, they are projecting 2D images into a photopolymer resin. Bowyer has incorporated this approach into his concept.

The second technology is electric 3D scanning. This is to replace the photo elements in the process with electrical current. Basically, there are two tiny electrodes on opposite sides of the build chamber, and current passes between them. In a real implementation there would be more than two electrodes to speed up the process.

The third technology is a new resin that is able to solidify in the presence of electricity, rather than specific wavelengths of light. As you might guess, that’s the purpose of the electrodes above.

Electric 3D Printing Simulation

So far Bowyer has developed the mathematical theory of how this process could work, and has also created a kind of simulator to determine if appropriate amounts of energy would be applied to the correct positions within the resin volume.

The simulator would be able to prove out the theory of electric 3D printing before spending time to actually build a physical device.

Starting with a 2D simulation to first see if a disc could be “3D printed”, Bowyer quickly determined that this concept could work.

The experiments revolve around determining the correct amount of voltage to apply in order to achieve proper polymerization.

In the most recent experiment, Bowyer adapted the simulator to handle 3D scenarios. Of course, he attempted to perform a simulated 3D print of an actual object, in this case a simple cylinder.

The simulation was successful!

The next test was to 3D print, again in simulation, a more “controlled” shape, which again worked: a rectangular block was produced.

Electric 3D Printing Potential

This is a very different type of 3D printing, as Bowyer explains:

“But, of course, with this method of 3D printing there is no need for, nor advantage to, treating the objects to be printed in layers. Any pattern of voltages can be applied anywhere over the surface of the cylindrical reaction vessel, and I have not tried using that extra freedom at all yet.”

There’s obviously a tremendous amount of work to be done yet to make this process functional, not the least of which is the development of an “electric” resin to be used as the material.

But if it works, it promises to be able to solidify objects in mere seconds, vastly more quickly than any 3D printer in existence today.

The best part of this project is that it is open source, as Bowyer is posting the code publicly for anyone to try.

Via RepRap Ltd

2 Responses

1. Finally an electric 3d printer! I was starting to get tired of the gasoline fumes when I run mine

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