3D Printing 100x Faster, Inspired by “Terminator 2”, TED Talks

These chemists & physicists were inspired by the movie "Terminator 2" to create the CLIP Process to make 3D printing 100x Faster

These chemists & physicists were inspired by the movie
“Terminator 2” to create the CLIP Process to make 3D printing 100x Faster

I have an awesome intellectual collaborator named Dr. Don Nagy, CEO at California Computer Research, Inc. located at the University of California, Irvine – where I was in Pre-Med long ago. Don works closely with Dr. Robin Felder, Ph.D. Professor of Pathology, Associate Director of Clinical Chemistry, The University of Virginia and Dr. Jim Earthman Ph.D. at University of California, Ecole Polytechique Federale de Lausanne, Stanford University.

Dr. Nagy & I never seem to have enough time to collaborate on the numerous topics of interest we share. We initially met when he approached me when I was a new Google Glass Explorer (2nd round) to consult for he and his colleagues on how Google Glass could be used in teleoperations in diagnostic units in clinical laboratories. I actually had the privilege (& fun!) of driving VGo robots in a clinical lab on the east coast from my home office in sunny California!

One of the last topics we talked about was centered around a TED Talk given by Joseph DeSimone Ph.D., Co-Founder & CEO, Carbon 3D Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC-CH & ChE at NCSU, entitled “What if 3D Printing Was 100x Faster?” The link in the previous sentence will take you to the YouTube video of his TED Talk, and it’s what I’ll be describing here. Everything I’m writing is credited to Joseph and his colleagues and the screenshots were taken from the YouTube video. But…it was just too amazing not to share with you all!

So get ready to have your mind blown away!

Beyond 3D Printing

Beyond 3D Printing

Dr. DeSimone began his talk showing a red, round complex sphere that is a set of concentric geodesic structures with linkages between each one. It’s not manufacturable by traditional manufacturing techniques. It’s symmetry is such that you can’t injection mold it, nor can it be manufactured through milling. Dr. DeSimone states “This is a job for a 3D Printer.

Initial Showing of the Object

Initial Showing of the Object

However, most 3D Printers today would take between 3-10 hours to fabricate it, but he took the risk at TED talks to fabricate it on stage in his 10-minute talk!

Beginning of Fabrication

Beginning of Fabrication

What I found particularly interesting is that “3D Printing is actually a misnomer. It’s actually 2D printing over & over again, & uses the technology of 2D printing“. Dr. DeSimone gave a great analogy of an inkjet printer where you lay down ink on a page to make letters & then do that over & over again to build up a 3D object:

2D Printing Over & Over Again

2D Printing Over & Over Again

He and his colleagues became interested in 3D printing because:

Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought

Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought

I so relate to that quote from Albert Szent-Gyorgyi because I’m innovative by nature. But I’m one of those individuals who think of these types of things and watch others make them years later! Oh well!

Dr. DeSimone and his colleagues were inspired by the “Terminator 2” scene for T-1000 pictured at the top of this article, which I’m sure most of you have viewed:

The Beginning of the Growing of T-1000 from molten metal

The Beginning of the Growing of T-1000 from molten metal

This team had the innovation savvy to think “Why couldn’t a 3D Printer operate in this fashion, where you have an object arise out of a puddle in essentially real-time, with no waste, to make a great object ?”  Einstein-ownian! (If that’s a word)

Einstein-ownian!

Einstein-ownian!

This team thought that if they could pull this off, they’d essentially solve the 3 limitations that are holding back 3D printing from being a manufacturing process:

3 Limitations to 3D Printing Being a Manufacturing Process

3 Limitations to 3D Printing Being a Manufacturing Process

In order for you to understand the underlying causes of each of the limitations above, you’d have to watch the awesome video of the TED Talk.

Their approach was to use standard knowledge in polymer chemistry to harness light & oxygen to rapidly grow parts:

Harness Light and Oxygen

Harness Light and Oxygen

Light & Oxygen work in different ways. Light can take a resin (liquid) and turn it into a solid. Oxygen inhibits that process, being polar opposites from a chemical point of view. They thought if they could control spatially the light and Oxygen, they could control this process:

Continuous Liquid Interface Production: CLIP

Continuous Liquid Interface Production: CLIP

CLIP has 3 functional components:

  • It has a reservoir that holds the puddle just like the T-1000. At the bottom of the reservoir is a special window. This is the key: the window is a composite that’s not only transparent to light but is  permeable to Oxygen, having characteristics similar to a contact lens
  • It has a stage that will lower into the puddle & pull the object out of the liquid
  • It has a digital light projection system underneath the reservoir illuminating with light in the ultraviolet region
Oxygen & Light Working as Described Above

Oxygen & Light Working as Described Above

You can see in the image above that at time 4:49 of this 10-minute talk, the object is already being created!

The traditional mechanical approach of lowering a stage in there with an Oxygen-impermeable window is to make a 2-dimensional pattern & glue that onto the window with a traditional window. Then in order to introduce the next layer you have to separate the layer, introduce new resin, re-position it & repeat this process over & over again:

Traditional Mechanical Approach

Traditional Mechanical Approach

However, with the special window this team created with Oxygen coming through the bottom, as light hits it, Oxygen inhibits the reaction, forming a “dead zone” on the order of tens of microns thick (remaining a liquid). They then pull this object up and as they change the Oxygen content they can change the dead zone thickness:

CLIP Process

CLIP Process

Speaker and Growing Object

Speaker and Growing Object

The number of key variables they control via very sophisticated software in the CLIP Process are the following:

Controlled Chemical Reactions

Controlled Chemical Reactions

The result is mind-blowing (promised you!):

25-100x Faster than Traditional 3D Printers

25-100x Faster than Traditional 3D Printers

As the ability to deliver liquid to that interface improves, Dr. DeSimone projects that it can even go 1000x faster!

That opens up the ability to generate a lot of heat & the idea that there might be a day when they have water-controlled 3D Printers because they’re going so fast!

Also, because they’re “growing” things, they eliminate the “layers” where the parts are monolithic. You don’t see the surface structure: you have molecular smooth surfaces:

Molecular Smooth Surface

Molecular Smooth Surface

The mechanical parts made in a traditional 3D printer are notorious for having properties that depend on the orientation with how you printed it, because of the layer-like structure.

But when you “grow” objects like this, the properties are invariant with the print direction, looking like traditional injection molding which is very different than traditional 3D manufacturing:

Consistent Mechanical Parts

Consistent Mechanical Parts

They can also throw the entire “Principles of Polymer Chemistry” at these objects and are able to design chemistries that give rise to the properties you really want in a 3D printed object:

The 3D Printed Object via CLIP, Done in 7:18 Minutes

The 3D Printed Object via CLIP, Done in 7:18 Minutes

So the opportunities that have the properties to be a final part and you do it in game-changing speed, you can actually transform manufacturing!

Manufacturing Opportunities

Manufacturing Opportunities

Currently in manufacturing, there’s what’s called a “digital thread” going from a CAD drawing to a prototype to manufacturing & often the digital thread is broken right at prototyping. Because you can’t go right to manufacturing because most parts don’t have the properties to be a final part.

With CLIP, they can connect the digital thread from design to prototyping to manufacturing. This opens up possibilities like better fuel-efficient cars to new turbine blades – all sorts of things.

Think about if you need a stent in an emergency situation, instead of the doctor choosing some pre-manufactured stent, they can create a stent designed for your own anatomy with your own tributaries printed in an emergency in real-time:

Anatomical Use Cases

Anatomical Use Cases

These are some of the amazing micro-scale structures that Dr. DeSimone’s students are making:

Made by Dr. DeSimone's Students

Made by Dr. DeSimone’s Students

Nanotechnology is prevalent, but it’s really difficult to make things from 10 microns to 1,000 microns. The subtractive techniques from the silicon industry can’t do that. But CLIP is so gentle they can grow these things up from the bottom & make amazing things in tens of seconds!

The opportunity of making a part in real-time that has the properties to be a final part opens up 3D manufacturing:

3D Manufacturing Game Changing Speeds

3D Manufacturing Game Changing Speeds

BetterLast

For Dr. DeSimone’s team, they’re very excited to have created the intersection of software, hardware, & molecular science. No kidding, eh?

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