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Digital Light Synthesis: Bringing Chemistry to the World of Manufacturing

Posted on August 4th, 2017 by in New Materials & Applications

3d Printing

3D printing or additive manufacturing has come a long way in becoming a main stream production process for industrial scale applications. 3D printing has been used to make complex shapes and light weight products made from polymers or metals (depending on the additive manufacturing process used) for industrial and consumer products/parts for medical products, aircrafts, building constructions, toys and games, automotive etc.

One of the main drawbacks of the current additive manufacturing process that they are good for producing low-volume products, unlike traditional manufacturing techniques which have been optimized for mass production. Further, the process is slow and expensive and only good for producing complex shaped products. New techniques called bound-metal deposition and digital light synthesis being developed, have the potential to make additive manufacturing ready for mass production.

Digital light synthesis is one of the techniques which use a software-controlled chemical reaction process to grow parts. Starting with a liquid polymer in a base, ultraviolet light is used to cure a volume of the polymer depending on the 3D design of the part being developed. This process is repeated layer-by-layer till the desired shape is achieved and finally baked to provide strength to the part. Digital light synthesis is 100 times faster than traditional polymer material printers and the baking process produces smoother and stronger products.

Adidas is starting to use this process to produce a new series of 3D printed soles for Futurecraft 4D trainer shoes from a base of liquid polymer. This process will be used to mass produce shoes in Germany.

Similar to reactive injection molding, digital light synthesis brings the world of chemical synthesis and manufacturing closer to make additive manufacturing ready for mass production of products with high strength, complex shapes, and perfect surfaces.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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