MultiFab, Bringing Multiple-Material 3D Printing to Us All

Interesting Engineering

You may think that 3D printing is already old news and that 4D printing is where it’s at. Not-so-much because the researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) went back to the drawing board to bring us a better 3D printer. The MultiFab can print up to 10 materials at a time at a cost that will make it possible for anyone to walk into their local print shop and order multiple copies of an originally designed working part. This 3D printer was of course built for manufacturing but it was also built for the hobbyist to create more complex objects conveniently and inexpensively.

multifab_printer[Image Source: MIT News]

MultiFab was developed by a research team at CSAIL at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the very affordable price of US$7,000. Current technology allows for multiple materials to be printed but the price tag is in the neighborhood of US$250,000. Also they can only print up to a maximum of 3 materials at a time. If you’d like to see an example of the latest technology before the MultiFab check out the 3D Strata printer.

Using machine vision 3D-scanning methods MultiFab is self-calibrating, self-correcting and it will scan and print right over an existing part. You could design and print a case right over your cell phone! This embedding capability will even allow it to produce a very complex part like a motor or an actuator. Instead of printing many components and assembling them together, MultiFab can print and change materials and print some more so the entire object can be made in one go eliminating any by-hand assembly.

multifab_collage[Image Source: MIT News]

The MultiFab mixes microscopic droplets of materials necessitating fine print heads (40 microns) which can incorporate more detail into the part instead of the bulkier extrusion method currently being used. Applications for MultiFab are in research, personalized consumer products, and mass production.

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