3D printing has been around for decades, but it has only been available to public consumers for the last ten years because of price concerns. However, researchers at Harvard have created new 3D printing technology that can create structures in mid-air and at a much faster pace than traditional methods: This could potentially revolutionize the manufacturing industry and change the face of 3D printing in general.
The team responsible for this technology are from Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. At the moment, the scientists were only able to create electronic wires that are as thin as hair strands. However, even this can already have real-world applications by creating more intricate designs for wirings used in modern gadgets.
The biggest difference between this new method of 3D printing and the old one is the speed and structure involved. With traditional 3D printing, items are created layer by layer through painstakingly forming solid forms from raw materials. The new method works by having a nozzle extrude special ink which is then hardened by a highly precise laser as the ink comes out. It's comparable to what current 3D printing pens can do, except the new technique uses harder, more durable materials.
Another huge difference with this new method is how freely it can move and create strands of electronics, not at all constrained by bulky machinery. This means more freedom and flexibility to create more efficient or more specialized circuits.
The technology could also be adapted to the macro level once brilliant minds get ahold of it to create the objects that current 3D printers can. Except this time, the objects can be formed much faster as opposed to the minutes or hours that traditional 3D printers can spend in creating items of even moderate sizes.