Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a new method of volumetric 3D printing that allows the manufacturing of small, soft objects in just a seconds. The new additive method can be used in medicine and bioprinting, enabling fast production of hearing aids or hydrogel scaffolds for cell cultures. It has been patented and is in the commercialization stage, through the Readily3D spin-off company, which will develop and commercialize this innovative system.
The technology was created in the University Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices (LAPD). The source of inspiration for its creation was computed tomography – the research team built a system in which the material – a hydrogel or polymer in a liquid state, is polymerized by the light emitted by a laser beam that illuminates the material at different angles. Currently, during the process, the device is able to produce structures up to 2 cm in size with an accuracy of 80 microns. The time in which it arises is less than 30 seconds. Ultimately, Swiss scientists intend to increase the working area of the device and improve the technological process itself to the extent that it prints structures up to 15 cm high.
Thanks to the high speed of photopolymerization of materials, the new method can work in many different fields in the field of medicine and biotechnology. In bioprinting, it can be used e.g. in the production of delicate scaffolds filled with cells to create tissues or organs – currently the team cooperates with surgeons in the area of 3D printing of arteries. At the same time, due to the fact that the process can also use liquid polymers, using 3D printers of this type can be used to produce custom and personalized hearing aids or mouth protectors.
According to Christophe Moser – the head of LAPD, the ability of this technology to fast 3D printing silicone or acrylic elements may also be interesting in the field of rapid prototyping or even designing decorative elements.