I think 2 or 3 days ago, I was voting for the 2022 3D Printing Industry Awards and this came up:
Now, obviously, I'm voting VLM, but I also wanted to see all the other technologies that were good enough to make it into this shortlist. The 2 that I'm still thinking of, days later, is Mantle's TrueShape and Seurat's Area Printing. The former uses a liquid metal mixture and the latter combines a low power, blue image beam with a high power, uniform intensity infrared beam to selectively sinter an area of metal powder.
Area Printing and the SecSavr Suspense are kind of similar in that a large build area is split into smaller area sections. I imagine an LCD panel or micromirror array was not able to handle or sufficiently block the infrared light directly, so the engineers had to get inventive.
Below are videos of both processes:
I like the background music of this video. It's got that same "innovative technology" vibe like in the VLM explaination video.
The liquid metal mixture process uses a CNC mill to improve surface quality before it's baked in an oven. An L^3 DLP process (remember that Liquid Laminate Lithography is just the name I'm giving to all resin based technologies that laminates a liquid onto a transparent film, VLM included) that I mentioned in some project log ages ago claimed to be able to work with both ceramics and metals, but I only remember the website focusing on ceramics. I'm thinking that a resin process wouldn't need milling except for surfaces that require very high precision.
Anyway, quite a lot of the current metal processes require a rather large and expensive oven. I doubt the Area Printing system helps out on cost, but it might be possible to integrate it inside a L^3 printer to save on space and increase the diversity of printable materials. I could even see it being possible that both the Area Printing and the more traditional MSLA systems work together, where
- The blue light photocures the metal/ceramic/glass infused resin in an area array, the same way in Area Printing
- The transparent film is removed, or the beam is redirected under the beam (like the Placement Block's laser)
- The patterned infrared light sinters the area array
I thought the new Hybrid PhotoSynthesis process (see below) was doing what I described in (1) but it sounds like what I thought of doing (written in a quick comment) where the edges of the pixelated layer is refined with a laser around the edges.
Another process that might be mergable into the L^3 ecosystem is Fortify's magnetic reinforcement:
Since I can't see a way to lay continuous fibres across any plane other than the one currently being printed/processed, this seems to be a good method to achieve non-planar reinforcement.
I'm just imagining a few company mergers down the line, where a printer the size of a dishwasher could be able to create a multicolour, reinforced and populated circuit board with integrated heatsink... Man I'm feeling like I should hold on to my papers, but I doubt it'll be remotely affordable.
Anyway, that's why I voted VLM as innovation of the year; these (3D printing) processes are kind of seperate but L^3 could allow them all to quad fusion merge.