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MIT Research Leads The 3D Printing Revolution

MIT Research Leads The 3D Printing Revolution
technology

A new era of "mass customization" is on the horizon, with 3D printers changing the way goods are produced.

Emma Hutchings
  • 16 september 2011

There are a number of 3D printing research projects underway at MIT, helping the Institute push forward the boundaries of a technology it helped pioneer nearly two decades ago.

3D printing involves building up a shape gradually, one thin layer at a time. The device uses a ‘stage’ (metal platform mounted on a piston) that is raised or lowered by a tiny increment at a time. A layer of powder is spread across this platform and then a print head deposits a binder liquid onto the powder, binding it together. Then, the platform is moved and another thin layer of powder is applied on top of the last, along with the next layer of binder.

At MIT’s Media Lab, there are 3D printing projects that have created complete mechanical devices such as working clocks. A system is being developed for printing concrete with the aim of printing a complete structure, maybe even a whole building. One scientist is taking the sci-fi route of trying to build machines that could build machines themselves. For the future of 3D printing, customization is key according to Media Lab IP consultant Bob Swartz:

Mass production is only a couple of hundred years old. Now, we’re moving into an area where things will no longer be mass produced. With 3DP, a basic pattern can be modified to fit an individual’s size, fit and personal tastes before printing.


MIT

Photo by Melanie Gonick

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