New IN-VISION Light Engine with Multiple Exposures Presents Exciting Opportunities for 3D Printing

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Just a few companies produce the light engines that power vat polymerization and powder bed fusion 3D printers. Among them is IN-VISION, an Austrian company that specializes in using Texas Instruments-based DMD chips to create DLP light engines. These light engines can be integrated into scanners, lithography equipment, and 3D printers, significantly accelerating the development of such equipment.

Now, IN-VISION has introduced a new DLP light engine, initially designed not for 3D printing but for research purposes. However, as you’ll see, it may have some features that could, one day, make for interesting 3D printing innovations. This light engine is primarily aimed at biology researchers, particularly those in the field of optogenetics, which involves controlling neutron behavior using light. Additionally, the light engine could be useful for individuals working in lithography. This 2D process involves etching a pattern, often referred to as a resist (or photoresist), into a material. After this, a second layer is chemically deposited over the areas of the resist but not the rest of the plate. Although lithography has been used in art, it is now fundamental to the production of silicon wafers that power electronic chips, underpinning the electronics that surround us.

“Imagine a UV-light projector that exposes structures with the highest precision ever seen and enables you to analyze what was exposed at the same time,” said IN-VISION CEO Florian Zangerl.

The unit, named HELIOPORA, features a 2k DMD chip by Texas Instruments and offers the flexibility to select your own wavelength. Users can also add their own lenses and a CMOS camera for quality control, tailoring this high-resolution unit to their specific needs. It accommodates objectives ranging from 300 nm up to 160 µm. Incorporating a CMOS camera directly into the research setup eliminates the need to transfer workpieces or samples between different machines or change setups for quality control. This integration facilitates the development of closed-loop systems, streamlining the research process significantly.

I’m sure the optogenetics community is in a flutter over HELIOPORA. Although it wasn’t optimized for the scrolling capabilities found in other print heads like the HELIOS and PANDIA 4K, it shares the same 16W output power as these models. The inclusion of the CMOS camera is particularly noteworthy. Imagine being able to log every part of every build as it is constructed. This capability could allow for much finer adjustments to settings and equipment, potentially enhancing performance significantly. Researchers could use this technology to develop better 3D printers or materials. In the future, we might see every printer equipped with a closed-loop system for quality assurance and traceability of critical parts. Additionally, feeding the CMOS data back to a central repository could optimize settings and toolpathing. This would allow for the identification of specific actions, beams, or movements that cause errors. Over time, it could be possible to develop a series of error-mitigating toolpaths or positioning strategies for parts, continually adjusting parts and orientations to find the most reliable printing method for each major geometry.

Wouldn’t it be exciting if we could use different wavelengths of material in the same printer? If we were able to switch between them, we could print both the support structures and the interfaces between support and build materials using highly dissimilar materials. This would allow us to create supports that are easy to break away or mechanically remove. I also appreciate the idea of having flexibility in lenses to achieve various build modes and speeds. To me, this represents an inspiring light engine that may not find immediate application in current printers, but it certainly points to potential innovations that could enhance vat polymerization.

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