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Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, is a wonderful technique but still very slow. TNO has developed a unique method to significantly increase the speed of the printing process, thereby making it possible to manufacture numerous products much faster and cheaper, without compromising on quality. The industry can now become acquainted with a working prototype.
This is a 'light engine' that can be built into existing professional 3D printers, similar to an engine block in a car. This machine provides an opportunity for manufacturers of 3D printers to make their devices faster, and a solution for companies that manufacture moulds or templates for the manufacturing industry.
TNO has applied for a patent on the exposure method. The number of applications are endless. Companies that benefit from the innovative printing method are manufacturers of prototypes for hearing aids and dental elements, to moulds for automotive and aerospace components. By definition, these are products that are produced in small quantities and for which precision is crucial. For example, there is interest from a supplier of dashboards for the automotive industry. Typical of such products is the creation of a limited series of parts or templates, all of which differ from each other.
TNO has been working on the development of 3D printing since the late 1980s and has developed new technologies over the past decades to help manufacturers of 3D printers improve their machines, mainly in terms of higher accuracy, increased speed and the use of more and more materials. The exposure method makes printers much faster and the products much cheaper. The technology works with Blu-Ray laser diodes that are also used in consumer electronics. In TNO's setup, these are more effective than the expensive industrial laser. As a result, the product is exposed faster, layer by layer, and with very high accuracy.
The technology has been proven in the lab and will be further perfected in the near future. TNO has developed business cases for machine manufacturers, material producers and companies that use this type of machinery. The 3D technology enables them to make substantial savings, and at the same time increase their turnover considerably.