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Scientists create 3D printer the size of a coin: Where can it be applied?

Science and culture

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Texas (Austin) has created a prototype of a portable 3D printer the size of a coin.

According to scientists, this development completely changes the concept of what a 3D printer should be. Previously, these were bulky devices that took up a lot of space, but now it is a compact portable gadget.

The key component of the invention is a special photonic chip that has no moving parts, but instead relies on an array of tiny optical antennas to control light beams. The chip is heated using compact modulators, and then the accuracy of the beams is adjusted using an electric field for maximum print detail.

Another key element is the use of a unique photopolymer resin that hardens when exposed to light. Chemists have selected the optimal composition and concentration of substances that provide "long shelf life and quick curing" when exposed to light beams. This allowed 2D objects to be printed in just a few seconds.

The team plans to use the same principles to create a 3D printer that will work with photosensitive resin and allow complex volumetric models to be printed in a single pass. According to Jelena Notaros, one of the authors of the research group, they plan to demonstrate the operation of this device soon.

“This system completely rethinks what a 3D printer is. It is no longer a huge box sitting on a stand, but something very portable. It's exciting to think about the new applications that could be created as a result of this, and how the field of 3D printing might change globally,” says Notaros.

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