3D printing gets bigger, faster and stronger

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HARP in action as it vertically and continuously prints a large 3D object.

Research advances are changing the image of a once-niche technology.

A resin printer from Chad Mirkin’s lab at Northwestern University in Illinois can create structures as large as a person in hours (image sequence sped up). Credit: Northwestern University

As a metal platform rises from a vat of liquid resin, it pulls an intricate white shape from the liquid — like a waxy creature emerging from a lagoon. This machine is the world’s fastest resin-based 3D printer and it can create a plastic structure as large as a person in a few hours, says Chad Mirkin, a chemist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The machine, which Mirkin and his colleagues reported last October1, is one of a slew of research advances in 3D printing that are broadening the prospects of a technology once viewed as useful mainly for making small, low-quality prototype parts. Not only is 3D printing becoming faster and producing larger products, but scientists are coming up with innovative ways to print and are creating stronger materials, sometimes mixing multiple materials in the same product.

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The world’s first 3D-printed steel bridge looks like it came from another planet

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Dutch technology company MX3D just officially unveiled the world’s first 3D-printed stainless steel bridge. It took four robots, nearly 10,000 pounds of stainless steel, about 684 miles of wire, and six months of printing to build the sinuous, undulating structure, which looks like it’s straight out of a science-fiction movie.

The MX3D Bridge, designed by Joris Laarman Lab, is around 41 feet by 20 feet, and it’s made from a new kind of steel. 3D-printing created a ribbed surface as robots added layers upon layers; Gizmodo said it could be buffed out, but MX3D plans to keep the unique, rough look.

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