MIT Researchers Develop Multi-Material 3D Printer

Three-dimensional printing has grown rapidly in the last decade, allowing people to build everything from figurines to hand tools. But one of the biggest impediments to 3D printing has always been the limited number of materials it can use to print at any one time. That may be about to change.

A new 3D printer developed by researchers at MITEUs Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) can print objects using up to 10 different materials at once. The researchers, who have dubbed the multi-material printer MultiFab, said it could eventually open up new opportunities for researchers, manufacturers, and consumers.

Greater Accuracy, Cheaper

EUThe platform opens up new possibilities for manufacturing, giving researchers and hobbyists alike the power to create objects that have previously been difficult or even impossible to print,EU said Javier Ramos, a research engineer at CSAIL. Ramos co-authored a paper about MultiFab with members of professor Wojciech MatusikEUs Computational Fabrication Group.

MultiFab isnEUt the worldEUs first 3D printer capable of printing using more than one material simultaneously. Several multi-material machines are already on the market. But these have been limited to, at most, using three different materials, and can cost as much as $250,000.

In many cases, these printers can't reliably print objects without significant intervention by users. It can often take multiple printing attempts to successfully produce objects as they were designed. That can cost significant amounts of money in printing material.

Ramos and his group said they have solved several of these engineering challenges. MultiFab is the first printer to use machine vision 3D-scanning techniques. That capability allows the printer to self-calibrate and self-correct for any mistakes it makes, reducing the amount of human intervention required. Every time a layer is printed, the machine scans the object, detects any mistakes, and prints a EUcorrection maskEU to compensate....

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