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MIT Builds a 3D Printer That Can ­se 10 Materials at Once

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Researchers say the MultiFab 3D printer is the first to use machine vision to self-correct and embed components, saving users money, time, and energy.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory say they have built a three-dimensional printer that can build objects using 10 photopolymer materials at once.

Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers say they have built a three-dimensional (3D) printer capable of building objects with 10 photopolymer materials at once.

The researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory say they built the MultiFab 3D printer using off-the-shelf components that cost less than $7,000. By comparison, current industrial multimaterial 3D printers can handle up to three materials at once and cost as much as $250,000.

The MultiFab 3D printer mixes together microscopic droplets of photopolymers that it extrudes through inkjet printheads similar to those used in office printers. It currently uses only ultraviolet-curable photopolymers hardened by a light-emitting diode lighting system, but the researchers think it could handle additional materials such as co-polymers, hydrogels, and solvent-based materials.

To compensate for the relatively low quality of its off-the-shelf components, the MultiFab 3D printer uses a computer-vision system that helps the machine self-calibrate and self-correct during printing jobs.

Analysts say any production-model printer based on the MultiFab design would likely cost more than the few thousand dollars touted by the researchers, but Lux Research analyst Anthony Vicari says a production model costing under $20,000 could challenge current industrial printers in the $50,000-to-$250,000 range.

From Computerworld
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