New 3D Printing Technology - Objects Grow from a Pool of Liquid

The TED 2015 conference was held in the Vancouver Convention Centre at Canada Place. The glass windows of the convention centre  create interesting reflections.
The TED 2015 conference was held in the Vancouver Convention Centre at Canada Place. The glass windows of the convention centre create interesting reflections. | Source

What is TED?

TED stands for Technology, Education and Design. It's a nonprofit organization whose goal is to spread new ideas, primarily through short speeches given by people who have something thought provoking to share.

An impressive and exciting new 3D printing technology was demonstrated at TED 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The technology uses ultraviolet light and oxygen to create an object from a pool of liquid resin. As shown in the videos below, the object appears to "grow" from the liquid, reminiscent of the creation of the T1000 from the Terminator 2 movie. In fact, the CEO of the company that created the printer says that he was inspired by this movie.

The new technology is exciting because it has the potential to revolutionize 3D printing. It enables strong, functional and attractive objects to be printed rapidly in an all-in-one process. These abilities are lacking in the current technology.

In current 3D printing methods, a medium is deposited in layers in order to gradually build an object. Printing an object can be a time consuming process, taking hours or even days to complete. In addition, because the printed object is made of layers that are fused together, the final product sometimes lacks strength. The layers may also be visible in the final product, giving the object a banded appearance.

Even with its limitations, 3D printing has had some very useful applications. The applications may dramatically increase in number in the near future. The new printing technique creates an object continuously instead of in layers and offers the ability to overcome the problems of traditional 3D printing.

Printing a Lattice Shape with CLIP Technology (7X Speed)

The TED conference was held in Vancouver in March 2014 and 2015 and will also be held in Vancouver in 2016.
The TED conference was held in Vancouver in March 2014 and 2015 and will also be held in Vancouver in 2016. | Source

The Carbon3D Company

Carbon3D, Inc. is a startup company based in Redwood City in California. Based on the staff descriptions on the Carbon3D website, the company is run by some highly qualified and experienced people.

The CEO of Carbon3D is Joseph DeSimone. He's on leave from his position as Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and from his other academic positions. His team consists of chemists, engineers, computer scientists and business people.

Chemistry, engineering and computer science are involved in the printer's action. The object is created by starting and stopping chemical reactions. The equipment that allows this to happen in an engineering feat. The instructions that "tell" the equipment what to do are provided by a computer program.

The company calls their new printing technique CLIP technology. CLIP stands for Continuous Liquid Interface Production. Carbon3D has been in operation since 2013 but has kept their endeavours secret - or at least unpublicized - until now.

We think that popular 3D printing is actually misnamed - it's really just 2D printing over and over again.

— Joseph DeSimone, CEO of Carbon3D, Inc.

Printing a Mini Eiffel Tower in Six Minutes with CLIP Technology

What is "Curing" in Materials Technology?

The term "curing" refers to the hardening of a liquid by the formation of polymers and the creation of cross-links (bonds) between the polymers. Curing is triggered by the addition of energy, such as ultraviolet light or heat, or by the addition of certain chemicals.

CLIP 3D Printer Structure

In CLIP technology, a build platform moves upwards, pulling a gradually-forming shape out of a container of liquid. The liquid - at least in the demonstration printers - is a resin that is curable by UV light.

At the bottom of the container of liquid resin is a transparent window that is permeable to oxygen. Underneath the window is a projector that emits ultraviolet light. The Carbon3D company likens the window to a contact lens, since it allows both light and oxygen to pass through it and enter the resin. The combination of light and oxygen allows a 3D object to be created in the resin.

Differing Effects of Ultraviolet Light and Oxygen on the Resin

Ultraviolet light triggers polymerization in the resin. In this process, molecules join to form long chains called polymers. Cross-links (chemical bonds) form between the polymer chains. As the polymers and cross-links form, the resin solidifies. Oxygen has the opposite effect on the resin. It stops the formation of polymers and prevents solidification.

Joseph DeSimone Interviewed at TED 2015

How Does CLIP 3D Printing Work?

In a CLIP printer, a continuous sequence of cross sectional images from a 3D graphics model is projected into the resin. The images are sent in the form of UV light patterns.

A very thin layer of resin just above the window in the resin container is rich in oxygen. The oxygen entered the resin through the window. The oxygen-rich layer doesn't polymerize as UV light passes through it and is referred to as the dead zone.

The resin just above the dead zone lacks oxygen and does polymerize when the light strikes it, forming a solid according to the shape of the projected UV image. The solid is slowly pulled out of the liquid resin as it forms, allowing more low-oxygen liquid resin to move into position above the dead zone.

Because there is always liquid below the developing object, the object doesn't stick to the bottom of the container. In addition, the object is both created and pulled upwards continually and smoothly without any pauses. These factors prevent the formation of layers and bands in the finished product.

The printer needs instructions that control its actions, "telling" it how to translate a 3D graphics model into a real object. These instructions are supplied by sophisticated computer software that controls the variables involved in the printing process.

A scene in front of the wooden picnic pavilion created for TED 2015. The killer whale in front of the pavilion is the digital orca sculpture by Douglas Coupland.
A scene in front of the wooden picnic pavilion created for TED 2015. The killer whale in front of the pavilion is the digital orca sculpture by Douglas Coupland. | Source
The Vancouver Convention Centre is located at Canada Place, which is located next to Burrard Inlet. The area includes other attractions, including a pier with a promenade.
The Vancouver Convention Centre is located at Canada Place, which is located next to Burrard Inlet. The area includes other attractions, including a pier with a promenade. | Source

Potential Benefits and Problems of CLIP Technology

Some Possible Benefits

CLIP printing is 25X to 100X faster than present techniques. (The process may eventually reach 1000X times faster than conventional 3D printing.) This is a highly significant increase and should end a lot of the frustrations over the time needed to create a 3D object. It should also greatly increase the number of applications for 3D printing, allowing custom built items to be printed whenever we need them.

In addition, the all-in-one printing method should create a stronger object, depending on the printing medium that's used. Printed parts have consistent properties and look much more like injection-molded parts than the usual 3D printed items. The new technology can also make flexible and rubbery objects.

Some Possible Problems

So far, Carbon3D has only demonstrated printing with a resin. The company says that the CLIP technique will work with many other media that contain polymers or can polymerize, including elastomers. These are very useful polymers that are elastic, as their name implies. Some people wonder about the scope of the printer, however, because it's limited to media that can be polymerized by light.

Another potential limitation is that the printer demonstrations that have been shown involve small printers that produce small objects. Questions have been raised about the ability of the new technology to produce larger objects and about how long this will take.

This is the side of the Vancouver Convention Centre building where the TED conference is held. The large, revolving globe in the building is part of the convention centre, but it could also symbolize the world of new ideas presented by TED.
This is the side of the Vancouver Convention Centre building where the TED conference is held. The large, revolving globe in the building is part of the convention centre, but it could also symbolize the world of new ideas presented by TED. | Source

Joseph DeSimone's TED Talk

Joseph DeSimone's TED 2015 talk is available on the TED website.

The Future for CLIP Technology

Carbon3D says that the beta version of its printer is already being used by select companies and institutions. The company also says that the final version of the printer should be created before the end of the year and that the printer should be available for sale within twelve months. At the moment, the selling price of the printer is undecided.

Joseph DeSimone predicts many possible benefits of the printer. In the future, doctors may be able to create stents of the correct size for a patient during an operation. (Stents are used to keep blood vessels open.) Dentists may be able to print implants while a patient is sitting in a dentist's chair. Car parts and other manufactured goods may be produced rapidly whenever they're needed.

There are many ideas in technology that don't live up to their expectations and fizzle out. There are also ideas that are successful and allow technology to take a leap forward, sometimes improving our lives significantly. The new 3D printing technology may be one of the latter ideas. It will be very interesting to see if this is true.

© 2015 Linda Crampton

More by this Author


Comments 32 comments

annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England

This is fascinating stuff, Alicia. I saw a feature about it on television just a few days ago. It's an exciting development and something that's caught my interest; unusual as I'm not often captivated by scientific news!

Wonderful explanations and great illustrations. We'll watch this space.

Ann


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Ann! It is an exciting topic. I'll be watching closely to see how the printer develops.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 20 months ago from USA

Very neat. My daughter goes to an engineering specialty high school program where they do have 3D printers but they sure don't have this yet. Awesome to learn about! Voted up and more!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, Flourish. It sounds like your daughter goes to an interesting school!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

I saw a demonstration of this on television recently and I was blown away by it. Who would have imagined when we were kids that this would be possible? Great article, Alicia.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

That's so true, Bill. Technology has come such a long way since we were children! As always, thank you for the visit and the comment.


Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 20 months ago from Europe

Very interesting article, AliciaC. These kind of techniques are very promising for the future of prototyping and small series production. One day it might even be possible to print your own car! :)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Buildreps. Yes, the technology is very promising. Printing our own car is a very interesting prospect! Thanks for the comment.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

I've heard of this 3D printing. It looks super cool.

Very informative article.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Larry. I agree - it does look cool! Thank you for the comment.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 20 months ago from southern USA

How fascinating, Alicia! Technology is truly advancing at a fast rate. I hope they work out the kinks. I am sure they will, especially after coming this far along. As Bill stated, this would have blown our minds if this technology was around when we were kids, well, it is blowing mine right now LOL.

Up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Thank you for always keeping us up on the latest science and technology!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Faith. Yes, the possibilities of 3D printing are mind blowing! I appreciate all of the votes and the shares. I hope you have a great weekend.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 20 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

When I saw the Terminator android oozing back into shape in the movie, I scoffed: that'll never happen. Now I'm not so sure. This is a truly novel technology, not just a refinement of existing techniques. It will be very interesting to see where it leads.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Ron. I agree - it will be very interesting to see where this technology leads. I'm looking forward to finding out! Thanks for the visit.


Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 20 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Thanks for sharing such great, valuable information, Alicia. It's an awesome technology which can create wonders in printing field.

Voted up, awesome and sharing also.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the visit and the comment, Venkatachari! I appreciate the votes and the share a great deal. I think CLIP technology is great, too. I very much hope that it lives up to its promise.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 20 months ago from Houston, Texas

This is fascinating and to my mind very science fiction-like. It may not be this particular type of printer, but I have read that they even hope to be able to successfully print replacement organs for our bodies someday. Amazing!!!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Peggy. Yes, 3D printing certainly does have amazing applications! The future of the technology should be very exciting. Thanks for the visit.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 20 months ago from Massachusetts

Hi Linda. Really fascinating. The company I work for is moving forward with 3D printing, or additive manufacturing as they like to call it. But I have not seen this CLIP technology before. This stuff is amazing. The future is upon us.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Bill. It does seem that the future is approaching rapidly! It's fascinating to think about it. Thanks for the comment.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 20 months ago

Very interesting. I saw in the news that they will be using a 3 D printer in making a house. That is really amazing.

Thanks for sharing your information. :-)


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit and the comment, ignugent17. The latest developments in 3D printer technology are definitely amazing!


drbj profile image

drbj 19 months ago from south Florida

This is very exciting information, Alicia, and the possibilities for future applications may be almost limitless. Thanks for bringing us up to speed on the subject ... for the moment.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 19 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit, drbj. The news is exciting, but your comment is very apt. The news is current for now, but there may soon be even more exciting news to report! Technology is advancing rapidly.


stricktlydating profile image

stricktlydating 19 months ago from Australia

Wow, that's fascinating!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 19 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, stricktlydating. I think it's fascinating, too! Thanks for the comment.


FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 17 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

It's fascinating stuff Alicia, but it does make you wonder just how likely it is that ordinary folk will have access, or be able to afford, 3-D printing. Although, I guess they said the same things about mobile phones and lap-top computers.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Colin. Yes, there's a lot to think about in regards to 3D printing and its uses. The future should be interesting!


adevwriting profile image

adevwriting 16 months ago from United Countries of the World

It was interesting to read this hub! 3D printing technology is amazing!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I agree - 3D printing is definitely amazing! Thanks for the visit.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 16 months ago from San Diego California

Weird, science fictiony stuff. Our world is changing faster than we think and in ways we can't forsee. Great hub!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Your comment is so true, Mel - the world is changing faster than we think! Thank you very much for the visit.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working