Scientists create USD 100 smartphone-powered 3D printer

Beijing: A team of scientists in Taiwan has created a $100 smartphone-powered 3D printer that uses visible light emitted from a phone to cure the resin instead of the traditional method of using UV light or lasers, a media report said.

The device developed by researchers, led by Jeng Ywam-Jeng, a professor of mechanical engineering at Taiwan Tech, works just like any other 3D printer, Digital Trends reported.

3D printer
Representational picture

The machine starts by placing a coated vat of the specialty resin on top of a smartphone, which cures the resin onto a metal printbed as the photopolymer material is released.

The machine uses a z-axis platform to shape the design, and the phone to cure the material as it builds the object in layers.

"We've tried to 3D-print a hollow ball and achieved layer thicknesses of about 100 microns. And there's no need to enclose the printer in a dark box; just to shut the lights off in part of the room," said Jeng.

The team has been working on a prototype version of the printer for over a year and is slowly refining the printing process.

An early version of the technology required the use of a computer to control the printer motor as it builds. But now the team has developed a smartphone app that synchronises the smartphone screen with the motor.

This custom app makes it easy to load and print 3D models because the printer and the print management tool are housed within the same device.

In future, Jeng hopes to add a scanning feature that would allow users to scan a 3D object using their phone, insert the phone into the 3D printer, and print up the model with minimal effort.

The new smartphone printer shows promise, but it has one major flaw: The visible light that powers the system also makes it slow -- slower than similar vat polymerisation techniques.

The team is exploring ways to speed up printing by increasing the brightness of the visible light emitted from a smartphone screen.

The printer was showcased at the recently held 'Inside 3D Printing Shanghai 2015'.

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