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3-D Printing Takes On A New Dimension

Materials Science: Start-up company unveiled futuristic machine powered by chemistry

by Matt Davenport
December 21, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 49

Credit: Science
This Eiffel Tower showcases the high resolution of a new type of high-speed 3-D printing process.
A photo shows a 3-D printed Eiffel Tower.
Credit: Science
This Eiffel Tower showcases the high resolution of a new type of high-speed 3-D printing process.

Serial chemist-inventor Joseph M. DeSimone and his latest company, Carbon3D, made headlines in March when they unveiled a three-dimensional printer that appeared to pull fully formed objects, including a small plastic Eiffel Tower, from a pool of liquid resin (Science 2015, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2397). The company’s machine prints parts up to 100 times as fast as conventional 3-D printers, which stack 2-D layers of material on top of each other to build up 3-D objects and typically take hours to do so. Carbon3D’s printer possesses a speed and an appearance alien to 3-D printers, explaining, in part, why many of those March headlines were steeped in science fiction. The other part of the explanation comes from DeSimone announcing that the technology was inspired by T-1000, a time-traveling robot assassin from the 1991 film “Terminator 2” who could liquefy and morph into humanoid form. But Carbon3D’s core science isn’t robotics. It’s chemistry. The company’s 3-D printer creates a surface that initiates polymerization within a resin pool. This surface isn’t a physical object, but rather a depth at which there’s precisely enough oxygen and patterned ultraviolet light to cure the liquid resin. Oxygen and UV light penetrate the resin through a Teflon window under the pool. The patterned UV light controls the shape of a printed part while a platform pulls the part upward. Overall, the process enables continuous curing of a variety of materials, ranging from flexible elastomers to rigid plastics, DeSimone says. With these advances, Carbon3D aims to fundamentally change manufacturing. “We believe in a future fabricated with light,” DeSimone adds. “This can only be achieved by being proficient at the intersection of hardware, software, and molecular science.”

Watch Carbon3D’s printer create an Eiffel Tower at


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