3D printer from Sheffield University can print products in less than a second using "high-speed sintering".

 
Billy Ehrenberg
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3D printers have been used to produce anything from guns to questionable likenesses of Bruce Willis (Source: Getty)

Sheffield University is building a 3D printer that should be able to spit out plastic products as quickly as a production line.

The machine should be available in 2017 at a cost of £1m. It uses a new technique that uses less heat – meaning products are ready within seconds rather than hours. A single part could take less than a second to print, engineers claim.

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The technique, called high-speed sintering (HSS) utilises infa-red light and ink to achieve the result, printing the infa-red-absorbent ink onto powder, and then using the light to heat only the printed areas.

According to Neil Hopkinson, an engineering professor at Sheffield University, said that the new machine would enable much larger orders to be completed.

“Serious production of volumes over 1m” would be possible, he said, “which is currently inconceivable”.

The designers hope to market the printer internationally. Voxeljet, a German company that manufactures 3D printers, will take up a licence to make the new printer, and hopes to have one for sale in 2017.

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