© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

UC invention could reinvent high speed 3D printers

James Fleury
UC Engineering logo v2
UC Logo  Charlotte Grimwood

A UC Mechanical Engineer is working on a prototype 3D printer that uses hybrid laser beams to speed up printing without reducing accuracy.

UC Mechanical Engineering Senior Lecturer, Dr Yilei Zhang, said the printer would be extremely beneficial for engineering and biomedical products. 

"3D printing is normally quite slow because it involves adding a thin layer of materials at each step, which enhances accuracy but reduces productivity. By using hybrid laser beams we can print fast without compromising on quality."

The 2019 UC Innovation Jumpstart winner said the technology could be used in view of the COVID-19 crisis. 

He said the device could print in-vitro organ models to study the virus' effects, or to screen drugs that would possibly cure it. 

"In the biomedical field, it could be used to make not only scaffolds for tissue engineering but also in-vitro organs with cells embedded inside for implantation."

Zhang said 3D printing was a growing area of manufacturing and was already widely used across the aerospace, food, agriculture, and marine environment industries. 

He said because the technology was becoming increasingly popular, the market was expected to grow around 14 percent in value and reach just over 23 billion US dollars by 2026. 

Zhang aimed to have a working prototype completed in six months.