Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Taiwan: Smartphone 3D Printer Allows Screen Light to Cure Resin, to Retail Eventually at Just $100

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Jeng Ywam-Jeng

As we begin to streamline nearly everything in our lives from the convenience of the smartphone, it’s become the center of operation for many activities–from photography to banking to home security. I must admit too, that I am still secretly thrilled every time I print a document from my 2D inkjet printer, directed by my phone–from the comfort of my hand, rather than having to run to the PC. Considering the amount of documents and office materials that flow through our smartphones, it’s no surprise that printing is becoming more and more connected.

Now, all of those designs and concepts flowing from your mind and through the phone can be 3D printed as well, thanks to Jeng Ywam-Jeng, who wears many, many hats serving as professor of mechanical engineering at Taiwan Tech, the dean of the College of Engineering, the president of the 3D Printing Association Taiwan, and a consultant for both New Kinpo Group Taiwan and XYZprinting.

finishedHighighted at the recent Inside 3D Printing Shanghai 2015, held from December 8-10, Jeng’s smartphone based 3D printer was certainly a point of interest, as it allows the user to fabricate items with resin via a photopolymer made by Jeng and his team in Taiwan. In a brilliant new technique, they simply use the light emanating from the phone to cure the resin, eliminating the need for UV lights.

The phone becomes a 3D printer as a vat of specialty resin is placed on top of it, with the resin curing on the printbed. The design is shaped on the Z-axis platform and the phone cures resin as layers form. This prototype is the result of the team’s efforts over the past year. Slowly they have been able to build to the current standalone model, while the previous prototype was tethered to a PC. Now, with their convenient mobile app, all of the operating devices are integrated together, making 3D printing much faster.

“We’ve tried to 3D print a hollow ball and achieved layer thicknesses of about 100 microns. And there’s no need to enclose the printer in a dark box; just to shut the lights off in part of a room,” said Jeng.

Not surprisingly, the light source emitted from the phone is not quite as powerful as the team would like. With more powerful light they would be able to increase the speed of the 3D printer, bringing it up to the level of a more traditional printer that uses vat polymerization. Brighter light should lead to faster curing. Along with that, Jeng and his team are hoping that their printer will soon be compatible with more sizeable screens like those of tablets or HDTV. With the increase in light, the curing of resin would be more expedient right away. The team is even hoping to add a scanner to the smartphone 3D printer concept, allowing one to scan a desired object with an app, and then print with ease.

3d-printer-smartphone-prototype-1021x681What users will probably find most amazing of all is the price of the small device, which Jeng sees retailing at around $100, not including the price of the phone itself. This technology brings together everything that the world needs to further the flow of 3D innovation: affordability, accessibility, portability, and user-friendliness.

Jeng’s concept is cohesive, with a realistic design that has the potential to make the 3D printer and scanner as streamlined as the smartphone camera–as well as cutting out a lot of other extraneous–and much more expensive–technology. While this printer does seem to need further refining in terms of power and speed, it certainly appears to be something that could be a permanent trend.  Let’s hear your thoughts on this incredible device in the Smartphone-powered 3D Printer forum on 3DPB.com.

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