A new 3D printing technique promises to craft objects using beams of light, aiding all manner of professionals – from zoologists to people aboard spaceships who need to make tools in zero gravity. Here’s how this new technique works: Scientists create a 3D model of the object they desire, create a movie, and use a projector to beam the information into a rotating cylinder. Hayden Taylor, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California and senior author of a paper, tells Inverse that this new 3D printing technique uses existing hardware but makes more sophisticated use of its software. The past two months alone, researchers at Columbia University have discovered a way to 3D print wood, another team demonstrated how users can create a whole wedding scene, and researchers at the University of Michigan have created a method that can print objects 100 times faster than before. It sounds similar to the technique used by Taylor’s team – dubbed computed axial lithography – but there are some interesting differences between techniques in this new era of 3D printing. The team has designed the resin so that the object doesn’t sink during the printing process by any measurable distance, but working in reduced gravity could make that change even smaller. We demonstrated concurrent printing of all points within a three-dimensional object by illuminating a rotating volume of photosensitive material with a dynamically evolving light pattern.

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