3D Resin Printing
3D Resin Printing
Volumetric 3D Resin Printing: Combining Speed and Precision
Still in its infancy, volumetric 3D resin printing (V3DP), also called volumetric additive manufacturing, has the potential to speed up production at a fraction of the time while maintaining a high level of accuracy and precision.
It also offers new opportunities for materials and poses different requirements compared to traditional additive manufacturing techniques. The following section gives you an overview of V3DP, its advantages and materials that can be used in the process.
What is Volumetric 3D Resin Printing?
Volumetric printing is an innovative 3D printing technology that provides fast printing speeds and surpasses the geometric and surface quality constraints of traditional layer-based vat photopolymerization methods. It is an advanced manufacturing process, which involves projecting a design into a pool of transparent photopolymer liquid from various angles.
This technology uses photopolymers and is often compared to SLA printing. However, what sets it apart is how it solidifies the resin. Instead of projecting a 2D image onto the current layer in the container, V3DP employs multiple lasers to create intersecting points within the liquid, enabling a precise 3D object creation.
The main applications of volumetric additive manufacturing include 3D printing in healthcare, such as optics, dentistry, audiology, bioengineering, microfluidics and prototyping. In essence, these are sectors that will increasingly demand swift and scalable techniques for crafting three-dimensional structures in centimetre-scale dimensions.
Potential Advantages of Volumetric 3D Resin Printing
Volumetric 3D printing addresses one urgent bottleneck: Speed, which is still prevalent in additive manufacturing (AM). Besides, it offers high geometric precision to create hollow structures and is even able to print objects with new materials.
The increased speed advantage of volumetric 3D printing is a leap forward compared to traditional additive manufacturing. It allows for the rapid production of complex objects, which can significantly reduce production times. This increased speed not only enhances efficiency but also opens up new possibilities for industries requiring swift prototyping and production turnaround in the foreseeable future.
No Temporary Supports for Hollow Structures
Traditional 3D printing methods such as stereolithography (SLA) or Digital Light Processing (DLP) mostly require support struts for complex designs with overhangs or cavities. Volumetric 3D printing, on the other hand, offers further advantages when it comes to the creation of intricate objects. Hollow structures created by volumetric 3D printing don’t need temporary supports, which eliminates the need for additional material and post-processing steps, streamlining the production process and reducing material waste.
New Material Possibilities
Volumetric additive manufacturing offers new material possibilities, expanding a wider array of photopolymer resins and other compatible materials. These new materials offer different properties, such as softness or deformability, which provide greater flexibility and adaptability to specific applications and industries. Therefore, the new printing technique is able to create objects, which have different properties compared to traditional printing methods.
Materials Used in Volumetric 3D Resin Printing
Materials used for Volumetric 3D Resin Printing encompass thick acrylates and elastomers, various formulations of epoxies, adjustable stiffness thiol-enes and memory foams, ceramics derived from polymers as well as hydrogels made from gelatin for biofabrication involving cells.
Acrylates are a type of synthetic resin or polymer derived from acrylic acid or its esters. Standard acrylate photoresins comprise a blend of multi-functional monomers, oligomers, a photoinitiator and an optical absorber. The role of the absorber is to regulate how deeply the incoming light penetrates and as a result, to control the polymerization process as a whole. Acrylates are widely used in various industries due to their versatility and desirable material properties. The introduction of volumetric additive manufacturing was initially facilitated by acrylated urethanes, owing to their elevated reactivity, cost-effectiveness, and widespread availability.
Elastomers are polymers possessing both viscosity and elasticity (“viscoelasticity”). Due to their elastic properties, they can return to their original shape after being stretched or deformed. They are commonly used in various applications where flexibility and resilience are required, such as in rubber bands, seals, gaskets, and other flexible components. Elastomers are highly durable materials that can withstand repeated stretching and compression without experiencing permanent deformation. They find wide use in industries ranging from automotive and construction to healthcare and consumer goods
Epoxies are synthetic resins that are known for their strong adhesive properties, thermal stability and exceptional bonding strength. They are formed by mixing together two components - a resin and a hardener - which undergo a chemical reaction to create a rigid, durable material. Epoxies are commonly used in a wide range of applications, including construction, automotive, electronics, aerospace, and marine industries. They provide excellent adhesion to various surfaces and can be easily shaped and moulded.
Polymer-derived ceramics are advanced materials that are produced through the pyrolysis (high-temperature heating in the absence of oxygen) of specially designed polymer precursors. These precursors are typically made from organic polymers containing ceramic-forming elements like silicon, carbon, nitrogen, and others. Polymer-derived ceramics offer advantages such as high-temperature stability, excellent mechanical properties, and resistance to harsh environments. They are used in a wide range of industries, including aerospace, electronics, energy, and manufacturing, where their tailored properties make them invaluable for specific engineering requirements.
Thiol-enes are a type of chemical reaction between a thiol (a compound containing a sulphur-hydrogen bond) and an alkene (a compound containing a carbon-carbon double bond). They are widely used in various industries, including polymer chemistry and material science. They offer advantages such as high efficiency, rapid reaction rates, and the ability to be initiated by various means, including light or heat. These features make thiol-ene reactions valuable in the development of advanced materials, adhesives, coatings, and many other applications.
Hydrogels are three-dimensional, crosslinked networks of polymers that have the ability to absorb and retain water. They are composed of a water-rich structure, making them similar in consistency to natural tissues. Hydrogels are widely used in various applications, including biomedical and pharmaceutical fields, due to their unique properties. These materials are known for their biocompatibility, which makes them suitable for applications such as drug delivery systems, wound dressings and tissue engineering. Additionally, hydrogels can be engineered to possess specific characteristics like flexibility, porosity, and controlled release of substances, making them versatile materials in the development of medical devices and therapies.
Material Properties in Volumetric 3D Resin Printing
The success of volumetric 3D printing hinges on a precise understanding of the material properties of the 3D resins. Some of these characteristics, such as optical transparency and viscosity, differ compared to traditional 3D printing methods.
High optical transparency is crucial in volumetric additive manufacturing because the technology relies on illuminating the entire volume of the material at once. This ensures that the desired 3D structure is accurately formed throughout the object. Materials with excellent optical clarity allow the light to pass through unhindered, resulting in precise and well-defined printed objects. This requirement for transparency opens up opportunities for using a wide range of materials that meet this criterion, enabling V3DP to be applied in various industries and applications where optical precision is paramount.
The viscosity of the resin in volumetric additive manufacturing holds a distinctive advantage. Unlike in processes like SLA or DLP, where the resin must flow with each printing step, V3DP allows for the use of more viscous resins. This characteristic enables a broader range of materials to be utilised in the printing process, expanding the potential applications.
Conclusion: Volumetric 3D Resin Printing – A Peek into the Future of 3D Printing
The capacity of volumetric 3D resin printing to create intricate, high-resolution objects with unprecedented speed and precision holds immense promise for various industries. As this innovative technique continues to evolve, it is poised to revolutionise manufacturing processes, unlocking new possibilities and reshaping the future of additive manufacturing.
Contact us to find out more about our 3D printing solutions and about how photopolymers enhance your processes.