Dec 11, 2015 | By Kira
A little while ago, we wrote about Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory engineer Bryan Moran’s new method for 3D printing, known as Large-Area Projection Micro-Stereolithography (LAPµSL). The method uses UV light to create 3D objects that are larger and more detailed than previously possible with regular micro-stereolithography technology, and Moran won the 2015 Federal Laboratory Consortium Far West Region Award for his work. The researcher has now won a coveted R&D 100 award, filed a patent for the 3D printer, and announced further technological improvements for the upcoming second version.
Some discoveries happen by accident. Others come through bursts of inspiration. For Bryan Moran, his breakthrough 3D printing discovery came about to due to sheer irritation. “Irritation is the mother of invention, and people were annoyed that they couldn’t make things bigger yet maintain small feature sizes (using projection micro-stereolithography),” he said. “I did the research and the math and figured out how to make it work.”
Projection micro-stereolithography is a 3D printing technology adapted specifically for micro-fabrication. The technique involves focusing a beam onto the surface of a UV-curable polymer resin in a specific, predetermined pattern, and polymerizing (hardening) the resin layer by layer until a solid 3D object is formed. The process can create layer thicknesses on the order of 400nm, however it is not ideal for anything beyond micro-sized applications.
In order to solve that problem, he poured himself into developing a new method that would combine the extraordinary detail of Direct Light Processing technology, with higher speeds and significantly larger scan areas, allowing researchers to 3D printer larger and more complex objects faster while maintaining incredibly high-resolution details.
Specifically, rather than having a single static exposure with millions of mirrors, the LAPµSL 3D printer uses special software developed by the Lawrence Livermore Lab team to scan over a wide area, multiplying and overlapping the high-res images. As a result, Moran’s 3D printer can produce components with overall sizes of around 10 centimeters, with individual features in the micrometer range.
“It’s the combination of the projector with the scanning of a detailed image. You can easily cover a much larger area with the same level of detail as that contained in one exposure of the projector. The advantage is also in the speed. It’s a lot faster,” said Moran. “It’s a leap forward because it’s combining two existing techniques in a unique way,” he continued. “It’s enabling things that you just wouldn’t have thought of because it wasn’t practical before.”
Moran only started working in Additive Manufacturing three years ago, prior to which he specialized in lasers and optics. With his important discovery, however, he has just received recognition from the 2015 R&D Awards & Technology Conference in Las Vegas, and he has filed a patent for the 3D printer. In the meantime, however, there are already several improvements in the works.
Moran has said that he is nearing completion on an upgrade that will increase the build area by a factor of 10 and work at 10 times the speed while producing features that are five times smaller. In addition, the second version will feature custom optics and larger scan mirrors, allowing operators to 3D print complex objects the size of a dinner plate.
Recently, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory also made signficant advancements in 3D bioprinting by with the development of 3D printed 'living' blood vessels.
Posted in 3D Printer
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