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CBES: Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science

High-throughput 3D printer could revolutionize manufacturing

In work supported by the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science, CBES senior investigator Chad Mirkin and colleagues at Northwestern University developed a 3D printer that can print about half a yard in an hour — a record throughput for 3D printing.

The technology, called high-area rapid printing (HARP), was described in an October 2019 publication in Science as well as a Northwestern Now press release, and was featured in a Big Ten Network story published Jan. 29. The prototype is 13 feet tall and contains a 2.5 square foot print bed.

"Some people have come up with techniques that allow you to make small structures fast, but nobody's come up with a technique that allows you to make large structures fast," Mirkin told the Big Ten Network. "And that's what we've invented. We've invented a technique that allows you to print really large structures, structures the size of (a human), in a couple of hours."

The size and speed of current resin-based 3D printers have been limited by the intense heat generated during printing, but the HARP technology contains a nonstick interface that removes heat during the process.

Mirkin said HARP could change the way the world manufactures materials out of polymers and also provide greater flexibility and speed to the manufacturing industry. The scientists have created a startup company called Azul 3D to bring HARP to the marketplace.

Click below to watch a video produced by BTN to accompany its story.