Giant and Accessible 3D Printers

Giant 3D printers have been a thing but their accessibility hasn’t. Scientists at Northwestern have developed a new 3D printer that can print an object the size of an adult human, within just a few hours. This is possible with HARP (high-area rapid printing). Here’s what we know about giant accessible 3D printers.

“Northwestern’s HARP is 13 feet tall with a 2.5 square-foot print bed. It can print about half a yard in an hour, which the university says in a press statement is “a record throughput for the 3D printing field,” and a wide variety of large and small objects at the same time.”

We can expect this printer to be available for commercially sale in the next 18 months.

“HARP uses a new version of stereolithography (SLA), a type of 3D printing that converts liquid plastic into solid objects. Using an ultraviolet laser pointed at a surface of a liquid thermoset resin, SLA 3D printing first draws an object’s support structures, and then the object. Breaking the object into layers, 3D printing company Protolabs says SLA printing has “high accuracy” for details “as small as 0.002 inches.”

Large printers have been difficult to produce due to the extreme heat that is generated. The technology at Northwestern has overcome this challenge through the development of a heat removal interface.

“There are currently ways to 3D print large objects, of course. In 2016, the Guinness Book of World Records awarded the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) a certification for the largest 3D printed object ever printed, an SUV-sized tool used to make airplane wings. That process took 30 hours, and the DoE described the printer as a “giant” that needed to be stored in a warehouse. “When you can print fast and large, it can really change the way we think about manufacturing,” Mirkin says. “With HARP, you can build anything you want without molds and without a warehouse full of parts. You can print anything you can imagine on-demand.”


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Categories: Innovation