This new 3D printing technology is indeed the stuff of science fiction. Current 3D printing processes, as impressive as they are, require a flat tray or build surface to work. But the Mataerial 3D printer seems to have found a way around that: it creates structures on almost any surface with any inclination, including walls.
Invented by Saša Jokić and Petr Novikov from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Mataerial uses a robotic arm to create gravity-defying, free-flowing 3D designs that do not need a support structure.
This is possible due to a technique called anti-gravity object modeling. The Mataerial differs from other 3D printers in that it doesn’t print designs by placing thin filament layers on a horizontal tray. Instead, it pushes thermosetting polymers out through a muzzle, just like a toothpaste tube.
The thermosetting polymers harden almost immediately, thus creating a solid printed structure that is not affected by gravity. This means that almost anything can become a work surface to the Mataerial, with no support structures needed.
The designers have not yet revealed what type of polymers they are using. They say the 3D printer can create objects as small as 1 mm and as large as any conventional industrial printer. The size of the object is ultimately determined by the reach of the robotic arm. The arm’s movement will also help create objects with more natural curves.
The Mataerial is also able to adjust the color of its printed designs in real time, by injecting cyan, magenta, yellow and black color die into the polymers. The polymer flow can be thinned or thickened by adjusting the speed of the robotic arm.
Mataerial 3D printer’s designers are planning to further develop the device in order to manufacture usable furniture or architecture in the near future. The anti-gravity modeling technology could have numerous applications by allowing users to create or repair structures in all kinds of environments, including in outer space.
Check out the video to see the Mataerial in action:
[Image via Gizmag]