"CLIP": The Future of 3D Printing
By Corbin Pangilinan
3D printing is about to receive a big boost. Carbon3D, a company founded in 2013, has new ideas for the field of 3D printing, and it starts with this question: what if 3D printing was 100 times faster?
The end result of this is a process that looks pretty close to a famous scene from Terminator 2. This is hardly a mistake; in fact,
it’s what inspired the technology in the first place.
CEO Joseph DeSimone describes the process of 3D printing in its current form as “2D printing, over and over again,” which is a pretty apt summary of how today’s most popular machines work. Whether it’s the MakerBot Replicator, the Cube, or the Foodini, every machine relies on the same general method of printing, known as extrusion 3D printing.
This means that each machine uses a nozzle that pushes out heated materials onto a flat surface, much like a printer does with ink on paper. The materials used in the process differ between devices. Generally, the machines use thermoplastics, plastics that are easily molded when heated.
Each machine can make a plethora of different objects with wide uses. In the past, 3D printers have manufactured anything from wearables like bracelets and rings, to parts for prosthetic devices.
However, two issues come into play with this school of printing: it takes a long time to print any given object, and the process isn’t cleanly uniform. So, what does Carbon3D bring to the field?
Carbon3D’s secret is a process called CLIP, Continuous Liquid Interface Production. As opposed to extrusion 3D printing where thermoplastics are heated and ejected through a nozzle to print something, CLIP seems to grow an object out of a pool of resin.
This results in higher quality products, made at a much faster speed, as the printer doesn’t have to go layer by layer. Much like T-1000 formed up out of a puddle of molten alloys, so too does anything made by the 3D printer.
The Carbon3D website describes its process working like this: the printer holds a pool of UV-curable resin, with a window at the bottom of it that is both “transparent to light and permeable to oxygen,” sort of like a contact lens. A projector under the window shows a series of images in UV light, which hardens the resin and forms the structure of an object.
Alongside it, oxygen is used to ensure that there aren’t any additions to what’s being formed. A dead zone between what’s being created and the window ensures that the product won’t end up fusing to the printer.
As of now, the company is still pulling in funding for its 3D printers. They’ve been granted 100 million dollars in funding by Google Ventures in a series C investment in order to produce their own line of 3D printers.
According to TechCrunch , they have already been working with the “automotive, aerospace, and consumer electronics industries, including Ford and special effects studio Legacy Effects.”
Whether or not that means we’ll be dealing with self-reassembling robots in the future remains to be seen, but anything’s possible.