Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Researchers have developed a new method to precisely print tiny, soft three-dimensional objects in a matter of seconds for a range of fields, including aerospace, medicine and biology.
The new printer uses a process similar to tomography, which mostly is used for medical imaging, using surface scans to build a model of an object.
"Conventional 3D printing techniques, known as additive manufacturing, build parts layer by layer," Damien Loterie, CEO of Readily3D, a spin-off company based on the research, said in a press release. "The problem is that soft objects made that way quickly fall apart."
For the small objects tested in the new system, researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne's Laboratory of Applied Phototonics developed a method building the entire body of an object at one time.
The method, they report, proved to produce "high precision" prints, and in "record time" of less than 30 seconds.
"In tomographic volumetric additive manufacturing, an entire three-dimensional object is simultaneously solidified by irradiating a liquid photopolymer volume from multiple angles with dynamic light patterns," researchers wrote in a paper on the process, published Wednesday in Nature Communications.
The new 3D-printing method "has the potential to produce complex parts with higher throughput and a wider range of printable materials than layer-by layer manufacturing," the researchers say.
Three-dimensional printing has been used over the last decade in various ways, ranging from aerospace components, to patient-tailored medical devices, to bioprinting of tissues and organs.