While the majority of the announcements we write about pertaining to new 3D printable materials refer to filaments for the FDM/FFF process, material research is being conducted around virtually every major method of 3D printing. While the copperFills and bronzeFills get the most media attention these days, it’s the development of materials for the SLA, SLS, and DMLS processes which will drive the adoption of 3D printing further into end-product manufacturing areas.
One company, based out of southern Germany, called 3D Labs, is at the forefront of material research when it comes to SLA printing, as well as a variety of other major printing methods. With this said, they are known more for their 3D printing service offerings, able to produce large quantities of printed objects for customers within a short timeframe, than for their actual 3D printing material R&D.
Their latest project, however, involves a brand new material targeted towards the SLA printing space. The material, called LED.W possesses properties we have yet to find within any photosensitive resin to date. While the new material is still under development and being tested for a variety of possible uses, the company has lifted the veil on it recently, releasing a video just yesterday.
While the new LED.W material possesses numerous properties ideal for SLA fabrication, such as rapid processing speeds, which are estimated at about half that of traditional photosensitive resins, it’s one specific property which stands out from all of the rest.
The LED.W material contains a Shape Memory Alloy (SMA), meaning that that objects printed with it can be reshaped multiple times and then reverted back to their original form. The way it works is quite simple. Once an object is printed and completely cured, a heat source like a hair dryer can be applied to it. This will soften the object allowing the user to reform it (for instance they used an example of a printed figurine, which they then repositioned the arms and the legs). Once a desired position is formed, the object can be placed into cold water to thoroughly harden and maintain that new position. Where the shape memory comes into play is that heat can then be reapplied to the object and it will revert back to its original form, at which point cold water can once again be applied and it will maintain that original shape as well.
The company stresses that once an object is reshaped it will possess the same exact material properties as it had prior to the shaping, and it appears that items can be reshaped multiple times without issue. While 3D Labs is planning to market this new material to those within a variety of industries from aerospace to biomedical to automotive, one area that we think this technology could play a huge role in is that of stop motion or stop frame animations. Film producers could use just a few 3D printed objects, repeatedly reshaping them in order to produce what apears to be a steady flow of movement. Think claymation, only much easier and much more detailed
While the material is currently being tested and has been specifically produced for use within machines utilizing Prodways’ MovingLight® technology, it’s very likely that it could eventually be used in other SLA machines as well.
Let us know your thoughts on this new material. Discuss in the 3D Labs LED.W forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below showing the material in action: