Credit: Stephen McNally, UC Berkeley

New 3D printer uses rays of light to shape objects

A new 3D printer uses light to transform gooey liquids into complex solid objects in only a matter of minutes. Nicknamed the “replicator” by the inventors — after the Star Trek device that can materialize any object on demand — the 3D printer can create objects that are smoother, more flexible and more complex than what is possible with traditional 3D printers. It can also encase an already existing object with new materials — for instance, adding a handle to a metal screwdriver shaft — which current printers struggle to do. The technology has the potential to transform how products from prosthetics to eyeglass lenses are designed and manufactured, the researchers say. “I think this is a route to being able to mass-customize objects even more, whether they are prosthetics or running shoes,” said Hayden Taylor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley and senior author of a paper describing the printer, which appears online today (Jan. 31) in the journal Science.

Topics: Berkeley Engineering in the News, EECS, Industrial engineering