More durable prosthetics and medical devices for patients and stronger parts for airplanes and automobiles are just some of the products that could be created through a new 3D printing technology invented by a researcher at University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts.
Substances such as plastics, metals and wax are used in 3D printers to make products and parts for larger items, as the practice has disrupted the prototyping and manufacturing fields. Products created through the 3D printing of plastics include everything from toys to drones. While the global market for 3D plastics printers is estimated at $4 billion and growing, challenges remain in ensuring the printers create objects that are produced quickly, retain their strength and accurately reflect the shape desired, according to UMass Lowell’s David Kazmer, a plastics engineering professor who led the research project.
The invention combines elements of 3D printing and injection molding, a technique through which objects are created by filling mold cavities with molten materials. The marriage of the two processes increases the production rate of 3D printing, while enhancing the strength and properties of the resulting products. The innovation typically produces objects about three times faster than conventional 3D printing, which means jobs that once took about nine hours now only take three.
The process took about 18 months to develop. Austin Colon of Plymouth, a UMass Lowell Ph.D. candidate in plastics engineering, helped validate the technology alongside Kazmer, who teaches courses in product design, prototyping and process control, among other topics. He has filed for a patent on the new technology.
For more information, visit www.uml.edu.