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February 12, 2019

History of 3D Printing



Charles Hull, later the co-founder of 3D Systems, invents stereolithography, a printing process that enables a tangible 3D object to be created from digital data. The technology is used to create a 3D model from a picture and allows users to test a design before investing in a larger manufacturing program.

1) A laser source sends a laser beam to solidify the material.
2) The elevator raises and lowers the platform to help lay the layers.
3) The vat contains the material used to create the 3D object.
4) The 3D object is created as parts are layered on top of each other.
5) Advanced 3D printers use one or more materials, including plastic, resin, titanium, polymers and even gold and silver.

1990s - Different Technologies Emerge

Special application of plastic extrusion, developed in 1988 by S. Scott Crump and commercialized by his company Stratasys, which marketed its first FDM(fused deposition modeling) machine in 1992.

That same year, startup DTM produced the world’s first selective laser sintering (SLS) machine—which shoots a laser at a powder instead of a liquid.

In 1993, Royden C. Sanders builds a PC-based 3D wax printers for rapid prototyping and creating master molds used for investment casting. Later, the company will become known as SolidScape.

In 1995 the Fraunhofer Institute develops the selective laser melting process for direct metal printing.

The Future of 3D Printing in Jewelry - Direct Metal 3D Printing

How does it work?

CAD files are prepared for printing, by adding support structures

Focused laser beam melts the powder layer by layer

Models are excavated from the powder

Supports are broken off



Unattended operation over night/weekend

Production of jewelry parts with almost no limitation in geometry/complexity

Reduction of manufacturing steps > from CAD to metal parts in one step

High density, less porosity than casting

High accuracy and detail (micropavee)


New developments in powder manufacturing, such as the AU series atomizers from Blue Power, will give manufacturers more flexibility and autonomy and allow researchers to experiment with different alloys and particle sizes for improved surface finish.

February 12, 2019

Additive Manufacturing in Jewelry

What is it:

Additive Manufacturing by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials): “Process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies, such as traditional machining”


Rapid Prototyping: This term was used in the beginning of the professional use of the technology because the main application was the manufacturing of prototypes, mock ups and sample parts.


Design complexity and freedom: The advent of 3D printing has seen a proliferation of products (designed in digital environments), which involve levels of complexity that simply could not be produced physically in any other way. While this advantage has been taken up by designers and artists to impressive visual effect, it has also made a significant impact on industrial applications, whereby applications are being developed to materialize complex components that are proving to be both lighter and stronger than their predecessors.

Speed: You can create complex parts within hours , with limited human resources. Only machine operator is needed for loading the data and the powder material, start the process and finally for the finishing. During the manufacturing process no operator is needed.

Customization: 3D printing processes allow for mass customization — the ability to personalize products
according to individual needs and requirements. Even within the same build chamber, the nature of 3D printing means that numerous products can be manufactured at the same time according to the end-users requirements at no additional process cost.

Sustainable / Environmentally Friendly: 3D printing is also emerging as an energy-efficient technology that can provide environmental efficiencies in terms of both the manufacturing process itself, utilizing up to 90% of standard materials, and, therefore, creating less waste, but also throughout an additively manufactured product’s operating life, by way of lighter and stronger design that imposes a reduced carbon footprint compared with traditionally manufactured products.

No storage cost: Since 3D printers can “print” products as and when needed, and does not cost
more than mass manufacturing, no expense on storage of goods is required.

Increased employment opportunities: Widespread use of 3D printing technology will increase the demand for designers and technicians to operate 3D printers and create blueprints for products.

Jewelry Industry

was one of the first to realize the potential of 3D printing. With the help of Computer Aided Designing (CAD),
manufacturers are able to 3D print master patterns for jewelry, which are then cast in precious metal to create intricate art pieces. 3D printing has given designers the liberty to experiment with complex designs and abstract patterns to create dazzling jewelry.

The major benefits of the technology includes easy customization for on-request, unique designs, handling of more complex and intricate designs efficiently and minimizing or eliminating countless mold storage.

November 30, 2017

Formnext, the world’s leading exhibition for additive manufacturing and intelligent industrial manufacturing methods, was once again our host and allowed us to showcase our latest developments in metal powder atomization and processing.

Formnext 2017 drew in over 20,000 attendees and 470 exhibitors.

Blue Power was among one of the wide range of international exhibitors who were excited to present their expertise in additive manufacturing. It was a great opportunity to connect with customers and learn about the latest industry trends.

Our booth featured a full size AU3000 atomization plant along with an air classifier AC1000.

Visitors were able to get a better understanding of our equipment’s features and capabilities for producing spherical metal powders. We showcased the emerging full production duties of DMLS, SLM technologies as well as powder bed fusion, binder jetting applications and MIM.

It was a pleasure to exhibit and attend Formnext 2017 and Romanoff West would like to thank everyone who visited us.

Stay tuned to learn about for our future events and show attendances.

August 3, 2017
Figure 1
Figure 1: Lingual braces are mounted on the inner surface of the tooth to conceal them.

In the past, the path to perfectly aligned teeth meant a smile marred by a mouthful of metal brackets and wire. For many adults, the stigma discouraged them from undergoing orthodontic care. A solution to this problem is to hide the braces on the inside of the teeth. However, this simple idea poses unique challenges and difficulties.

T.O.P. Service für Lingualtechnik GmbH (Bad Essen, Germany) overcame the challenges of lingual orthodontic treatment and introduced its Incognito system. The company’s unique approach to positioning, optimizing results and improving patient comfort relies heavily on custom appliances produced with rapid manufacturing technology.

Hidden Braces
Lingual (tongue side) orthodontic appliances [Figure 1] are mounted on the inner surfaces of the teeth. Like the labial (lip side) appliances, the brackets are bonded to the tooth surface, and an archwire connects the brackets. Unlike labial appliances, lingual braces require precise bracket positioning and high precision in the brackets’ archwire slots. Additionally, since the appliance is on the inside, the lingual brackets must have a smaller profile so that they do not cause discomfort or speech impairment.

Figure 2Figure 2: Custom lingual brackets have a profile of 2 mm (0.08 in.) and an archwire slot guaranteed at 5 micron (0.00016 in.) precision.

T.O.P. Service’s early success arose from its innovations in bracket placement. The Transfer Optimized Positioning system improved positional accuracy and decreased the patient’s time in the orthodontist’s chair. However, T.O.P. Service determined that it needed further improvements to decrease treatment times, optimize results and diminish patient discomfort. In 2001, T.O.P. Service reinvented its processes and introduced custom lingual brackets. Designed patient-by-patient and tooth-by-tooth, these brackets deliver precision and control for improved results. The small profile also improves patient comfort by minimizing tongue irritation.

Custom Lingual Brackets
Each orthodontic appliance requires up to 16 brackets. T.O.P. Service begins with a malocclusion model, which is used to digitally design brackets, and finishes with investment cast brackets made from dental gold. The lingual brackets [Figure 2] measure 5 x 3 x 2 mm (0.200 x 0.118 x 0.079 inch), and they have only a 0.4 mm (0.016 inch) wall thickness. Production of these small, detailed brackets is complicated by the archwire slot. Measuring only 0.46 x 0.64 mm (0.018 x 0.025 inch), the archwire slot must be extremely precise. According to Ralf

Figure 3Figure 3: T.O.P. Service now operates 8 T66 Benchtop™ systems

Paehl, Dipl.-Ing, head of research and development, “To impart multidirectional forces to the bracket, the rectangular slot must hold the archwire, which can be round or rectangular, without any slippage.” This precision is so critical that T.O.P. Service guarantees ±5 micron (0.0002 inch) slot tolerances for each of the custom brackets that it makes.

In its reinvention of the process, T.O.P. Service faced the challenge of developing a method to rapidly manufacture the high-precision, fully customized brackets. After evaluating all possibilities, the company selected a Solidscape ModelMaker™ II system for creation of investment casting patterns. According to Paehl, the key criteria in the evaluation were resolution, surface finish, castability, and precision. Solidscape offered the best three-dimensional printing technologies and 3D printer software of all the 3D printer companies they reviewed.

Dr. Dirk Wiechmann, CEO and founder, stated, “The biggest advantage of the Solidscape technology is the precision of the layer thickness. To yield the ±5 micron precision, our only other option would be to wire EDM each bracket slot.”

Over the past four years, the company has expanded its operations to include eight Solidscape T66 Benchtop™ systems [Figure 3], which enables it to deliver 150 custom-made orthodontic appliances each week. Solidscape rapid prototyping machines have some of the best 3D printer reviews in the industry and advanced technologies that make them one of the most sought-after 3D printer manufacturers.

Figure 4Figure 4: White light scanning captures a digital representation of the malocclusion model.
The Manufacturing Process
Production of lingual appliances begins with malocclusion models of the patient’s teeth. These models are cast from impressions taken by the orthodontist. One model becomes the setup after it is manipulated to align the teeth to the target positions. This setup is reverse engineered with a white light scanner [Figure 4] to create a digital model that is loaded into T.O.P. Service’s 3D printer software. Selecting from a library of brackets, T.O.P. Service technicians position the brackets and adjust their features for optimal results [Figure 5]. The bracket design is output as an STL file for building patterns for investment casting

The T66 Benchtop, which can build with 13 micron (0.0005 inch) layers, constructs the bracket patterns [Figure 6] with proprietary thermoplastic ink jetting technology. The thermoplastic, which has wax-like properties, is deposited as small droplets. For precise layer thickness and flatness, a cutter mills the horizontal plane. When complete, the patterns are post processed by dissolving the support material and wiping off any debris.

Figure 5Figure 5: Custom lingual brackets are designed and positioned with CAD software.

The next step is to attach cast pipes to the patterns and assemble them to make the casting tree. The tree is then embedded in a “speed plaster” to create the investment casting shell. The shell is heated to 690® C (1,274® F) to burn out the patterns and then dental gold is cast into the investment. This process, which is computer controlled, takes only two hours. Paehl stated that he has 100 percent casting yield. ”Short duration, low temperature burnout and no residual ash are critical in our process. The Solidscape patterns give us all three,” said Paehl. After cooling, the shell is broken away to yield the metal brackets [Figure 7]. The runners (cast pipes) are then removed, and the brackets are tumbled in a polishing compound to smooth the surfaces.

Figure 6Figure 6: Bracket patterns for investment casting being constructed in a T66 Benchtop.

To complete the process, the brackets are mounted to the malocclusion model [Figure 8], and a transfer tray, which captures the brackets, is cast. T.O.P. Service’s rapid manufacturing process, from treatment planning to shipment of the lingual appliance, takes only 10 to 15 days.

Continuous Improvement
In one year, T.O.P. Service has increased its production volume by 400%. Some of the increase is from the addition of more T66 Benchtop systems, more operating hours, and more technicians, but much of the throughput gain has resulted from improvements in Solidscape’s three-dimensional printing technology, process, and pattern material.

Figure 7Figure 7: Investment cast lingual brackets after shell removal.

The most recent developments for the T66 Benchtop and the introduction of the InduraCast™ material have increased the company’s pattern production by 33 percent. Since T.O.P. Service runs their machines around the clock, this speed improvement has increased throughput without additional capital expenditures.

Following the adoption of InduraCast, T.O.P. Service’s scrape rate for patterns has plummeted to a negligible amount. “The material has improved the quality of the bracket patterns and increased its durability. With walls of just 0.4 mm (0.016 inch), our technicians used to damage the patterns while preparing them for investment casting. Now, we have a pattern yield rate of 99.0 to 99.8 percent,” said Paehl. Since the investment casting yield rate is 100 percent, T.O.P. Service has a net bracket casting yield that exceeds 99 custom brackets for every hundred pattern. This is nearly a 20 percent improvement in casting throughput.

Figure 8Figure 8: Custom lingual brackets bonded to malocclusion model prior to casting of transfer tray.

Combined, the improvements have delivered a 55 percent increase in output from each of the company’s eight T66 Benchtop systems. This productivity gain has improved T.O.P. Service’s profitability by increasing capacity and decreasing staffing demands. “Prior to the latest developments, I had planned to add four casting technicians. Now I find that I only need two new employees to keep up with the demand,” said Paehl.
Dr. Wiechmann stated, “We are using the Solidscape systems for mass production, and we find that they are production quality devices.” Yet, the company continuously seeks to improve its process. “We are always looking for new and better ways to make our product, but when it comes to rapid manufacturing the brackets, we always come back to Solidscape. No other technology has demonstrated the ability to produce the precision and surface finish that we need with the castability that we demand,” stated Dr. Wiechmann.

Dr. Wiechmann expects substantial growth in the coming years. But now that his company has overcome the challenge of lingual orthodontic appliances, TOP Service faces a new challenge, gaining acceptance. “The potential market is huge. Our biggest hurdle is to convince the orthodontists that Incognito is not a difficult treatment process and that it is a better solution,” commented Dr. Wiechmann.

Author information
Todd Grimm, president of T. A. Grimm & Associates, Inc. (Edgewood, Kentucky), is a rapid prototyping consultant, writer and speaker. He is the author of “User’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping.”



July 21, 2017
July 13, 2017

MPIF releases updated Powder Metallurgy Industry Roadmap

The 2017 PM Industry Roadmap (Courtesy MPIF)

The Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), New Jersey, USA, has released an updated version of its PM Industry Roadmap. Compiled with the aid of Powder Metallurgy industry leaders, the 2017 edition addresses the current vision for the PM industry and includes a view of future customer and market expectations, as well as a number of goals designed to meet these expectations.

The 2017 PM Industry Roadmap marks the third time it has been updated since its creation in 2001. Since the last edition, published in 2012, the MPIF states that the PM industry has made significant progress in the processing of lean ferrous alloys, aluminium, titanium, magnesium, and metal matrix composites. Component densities continue to rise with improvements in powders, lubricants, tooling, warm compaction, high-tonnage compaction presses and sintering technology.

The most visible advance since the 2012 update is said to be the rapid emergence of metal Additive Manufacturing, however the MPIF also states that Metal Injection Moulding has also grown significantly having advanced in material options, process control and standardisation. Material and process developments have enabled new PM applications, such as variable valve timing sprockets, electronic power steering pulleys, turbocharger vanes and jet engine fuel nozzles.

The 2017 PM Industry Roadmap is a free resource which can be accessed via the MPIF’s website.

July 21, 2017
July 17, 2017
Lockheed Martin, Denver, USA, has announced that it will award a $1 million grant to the Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU)’s new Aerospace and Engineering Sciences Building. The grant aims to support the work undertaken there and prepare the workforce of the future for the manufacture of affordable, capable and innovative spacecraft, the company stated.

The funds, distributed over four years, will be used to establish an on-campus Lockheed Martin Additive Manufacturing Laboratory, where students will have access to a state-of-the-art AM system on which to design and create aerospace components. The grant also establishes an endowed director of the Advanced Manufacturing Sciences Institute.

“This grant is an investment in the futures of the students at MSU Denver and the aerospace community,” stated Brian O’Connor, Vice President of Production Operations at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “Emerging manufacturing technologies will create possibilities we can only dream of today, like printing an entire satellite from the ground up or printing complex parts that we can’t machine using traditional methods. We’re helping students design with those new concepts in mind so the next space missions are innovative, affordable and faster to market. This lab will help students unleash their creativity in engineering tomorrow’s great advancements.”

Stephen M. Jordan, Ph.D., MSU Denver President, commented, “With support from key partners like Lockheed Martin, MSU Denver can offer students education opportunities that directly address workforce needs in Colorado’s key industry clusters. Students now have the rare opportunity to work with technology and equipment used by some of the top advanced manufacturing companies in the world.”

Lockheed Martin and MSU Denver have a long-standing partnership focused on developing manufacturing talent and technologies. The company helped guide the curriculum that grew to be the Advanced Manufacturing Sciences Bachelor’s Degree and will continue to provide an open pipeline of talent for co-ops, interns and graduates. Many of MSU’s former students have gone on to work with Lockheed Martin full-time.


November 28, 2016

Ohio-based 3D printing company Tangible Solutions have announced plans to incorporate 3D metal printing to their services. The addition of five Mlab cusing machines and one M2 cusing machine will make them one of the largest users of Concept Laser’s machines in the country. Tangible Solution’s new 25,000 sq ft facility located outside of Dayton will house the metal-powder bed machines.

Founded in 2013, Tangible Solutions provide a variety of 3D printed services including 3D printing, 3D scanning, and engineering design services. In addition to this, they are focused on: facilitating commercial businesses grow through 3D printing, supporting the use of 3D printing in military and medical applications, and in developing 3D education. Tangible Solutions also offer certification courses with the aim of ‘providing the most educated and skilled workforce in 3D Printing.’ Naturally the addition of these industrial grade machines will expand their capabilities into the metal printing field.

Equipped with titanium printing functionality, the new Mlab cusing machine will be particularly beneficial for medical and aerospace clients. While the M2 cusing machine will print in a variety of different metals since Concept Laser does not restrict the machines to print solely with their powders. Moving into this new facility in Fairborn, a suburb of Dayton Ohio, the company will also be adding new employees to grow their workforce to over 60 staff.

Founders of Tangible Solutions, Adam Clark and Chris Collins stated that:
“We share Concept Laser’s vision for building a “smart factory” that supports the principles of Industry 4.0: automation, digitization and interoperability of various technologies within a factory. We believe their technology roadmap will only make 3D metal printing more cost effective and flexible.”

While John Murray, President and CEO of Concept Laser Inc had this to say:

The team at Tangible Solutions are entrepreneurial and forward-looking; In only three years, they have made a positive impact in manufacturing in Ohio. We are committed to their success.

This acquisition shows growth for the industry and in particular, a rising demand for metal printed parts for use in the medical and aerospace industry. Tangible Solutions have grown three ways: with the new facility, additional workforce, and acquisition of 6 new machines. In order to support this growth the company have required funding through loans from the Fairborn city council. This loan is to be paid back within five years, suggesting the company expects good growth in the next few years.

GE acquiring Concept Laser

Interestingly the news comes after last months announcement that General Electric have agreed to acquire Concept Laser, continuing the multi-nationals strategy for the industrialization of the 3D printing industry. The American company has taken a 75% stake in Concept Laser, with a view to obtain the whole company in a few years. Concept Laser replaced their fellow German company in GE’s strategy after a deal for SLM Solutions was scuppered by a U.S. hedge fund. Elsewhere further evidence of the industrialization of 3D printing is visible with the news that Methods 3D are launching seven new additive manufacturing labs offering 3D printing services in the U.S.

November 15, 2016

Is France the next up-and-coming industrial 3D printing hub? It certainly seems that way, as various high profile 3D printing initiatives have recently kicked off in France. Just a few months ago, for example, French startup XtreeE and various high profile construction companies launched a serious construction 3D printing initiative, benefiting from the innovation-friendly climate in France. But the French aerospace sector is not far behind. Safran, one of the biggest manufacturers in that field, has just signed a collaborative partnership deal with Australia’s Amaero Engineering and Monash University to start 3D printing space-bound aerospace components – including gas turbines for jet engines.

Safran itself is a major manufacturer especially focused on aerospace, defense and security. With more than 70,000 employees and a 2015 sales revenue that clocked in at 17.4 billion euros, they are one of the biggest players in Europe’s aerospace manufacturing sector. Their Power Unit department is especially known for their innovative turbojet engines for civil and military aircraft, missiles and target drones, and they will play a key role in this new 3D printing initiative.

Amaero itself is a spin-off company that grew out of Monash research that will now be setting up a Toulouse facility to support Safran. “Our new facility will be embedded within the Safran Power Units factory in Toulouse and will make components for Safran’s auxiliary power units and turbojet engines,” CEO Barrie Finnin revealed. Aside from Monash University, this collaboration is also supported by the Australian Government through the Entrepreneur’s Programme, while CSIRO, SIEF and Deakin University are also involved.

Specifically, Amaero will provide access to Safran Power Units with two industrial SLM 3D printers and bring their know-how and intellectual property to their Toulouse factory. Through the work of Monash and Amaero scientists, these 3D printers have also been specifically customized to meet the strict requirements of Safran Power Units’ engine manufacturing systems. What’s more, Amaero will be actively involved in the manufacturing process. As part of the deal, Safran will design the parts, and Amaero will 3D print them and remain in charge of post-processing and assembly. Safran will subsequently test and validate the 3D printed components, with an eye on serial production starting in 2017.

This deal can be traced back to 2015, when Monash University, Amaero and Safran Power Units presented what they called the ‘world’s first printed jet engine mock up’ at the Melbourne International Airshow. Essentially, they took a Safran Power Units gas turbine from a Falcon 20 executive jet and 3D printed two copies after 3D scanning them – a project that demonstrated their collaborative ability to 3D print major and critical jet engine components. Combustion chambers, air inlet casings and nozzles were also on their hitlist. Along with Safran’s certification process, it enabled quick serial production.

That initial success paved the way for this new stage in their partnership, which Monash University’s Vice-Provost Professor Ian Smith called an excellent example of how research can have commercial impact on a global scale. “I am delighted that Monash is contributing to global innovation and attracting business investment with our world-class research. The Amaero-Safran collaboration is a fabulous example of how universities and industry can link together to translate research into real commercial outcomes,” Professor Smith said. “The new venture is part of Monash University’s large-scale investment in innovation on our Clayton campus, which brings together a dynamic cluster of research, research infrastructure and industry partners. Collectively we and our industry collaborators are driving technological change and advancing manufacturing – delivering real social and economic impact.”

Professor Xinhua Wu, of Monash’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing echoed those statements, adding that they are very closely collaborating with Safran. “I’m delighted to see our technology leap from the laboratory to a factory at the heart of Europe’s aerospace industry in Toulouse,” he said.

But even before that initial success, Monash had been working with Safran on bringing 3D printing to the production stage. As François Tarel, CEO of Safran Power Units, declared, the technology has been way up on their list of targets over the past five years. “The stakes are high: weight reduction, huge production cycles shortening and designs innovation. Safran Group advances and our partner leading-edge expertise allow us to stay ahead and to supply the most sophisticated components. This is not just a matter of 3D printing, the 3P rule applies: setting the right parameter for the right part and the right expected performance” Tarel. The first results of this collaboration could go into production as early as the first quarter of 2017.

But Amaero and Monash are not completely focused on Toulouse, as they are also bringing their aerospace 3D printing innovations to various Australian industries. Among others, they are working on a range of biomedical devices, customized surgical tools and scaffolds that can replace large tumors that are surgically removed. Mining and food processing applications are also on the agenda. We’re getting closer and closer to large scale metal manufacturing through 3D printing.

November 10, 2016

According to an interview published yesterday by Machine Design, 3D printing’s presence in the automotive industry is set to evolve rapidly. Additive manufacturing already holds a firm place in the sector but it is forecast to grow even further. The interview was with Scott Dunham, who is Vice President of Research at SmarTech Publishing and he explained how the automotive industry is poised to fully embrace the benefits of 3D printing.

Dunham has produced a number of industry analysis reports and thus is well positioned to assess the current position of 3D printing in the automotive industry and it’s expected trajectory.

Rapid Prototyping

According to Dunham, the key factor in driving 3D printing technology into the automotive industry is rapid prototyping. This is the area in which 3D printing is most prevalent and it involves primarily design. The benefits of 3D printing for the automotive industry are that it is fast and efficient when compared to traditional prototyping methods.

Users can design and create a model almost immediately, or least rapidly, meaning a model can be remodeled and reprinted several times accordingly. This allows for speedy product iteration and refinement. The use of rapid prototyping can help cut lead-times considerably and it is through this that 3D printing is expected to grow in the automotive industry.

Dunham expects to see a strong correlation between advancements in the technology behind 3D printing and it’s level of use in the industry.

Other kinds of 3D printing in the Automotive industry

Another aspect of 3D printing that has found ground in the industry is additive tooling. This is something that General Electric are exploring with their LEAP engine, an engine made with 3D printing and also repairable with 3D printed tools. The production of hard tools through metal powder-bed fusion and other metal 3D printing methods is an another application which in automotive industry is growing rapidly.

Linked to developments in the automotive industry, 3DPI also recently looked at how Local Motors have combined 3D printing and drones, in a new vision of the future of transportation.

November 3, 2016

Penn State’s College of Engineering published their findings in an issue of Nature Scientific Report in September.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State College of Engineering claim to have developed a way to speed up the process of 2D printing and 3D printing by up to 1,000 times.

Their apparent breakthrough is thanks to a major technological advance in the field of high-speed beam-scanning devices. Using a space-charge-controlled KTN beam deflector – a crystal consisting of potassium tantalite and potassium niobate – with a large electro-optic effect, researchers have found it is possible to conduct scans much more quickly.

“When the crystal materials are applied to an electric filed, they generate uniform reflecting distributions, that can deflect an incoming light beam,” said Shizhuo Yin, professor of electrical engineering in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We conducted a systematic study on indications of speed and found out the phase transition of the electric field is one of the limiting factors.”

To overcome this issue, the electric field-induced phase transition in a nanodisordered KTN crystal was eliminated, making it work at a higher temperature. Yin worked with his team of researchers, Penn State graduates Wenbin Zhu, Ju-Hung Chao, Chang-Jiang Chen and Robert Hoffman from the Army Research Laboratory in Maryland. They not only surpassed the Curie temperature (a point where certain materials lose their magnetic properties, replaced by induced magnetism), they also went beyond the critical end point (in which a liquid and its vapour can coexist).

This increased the scanning speed from the microsecond range to the nanosecond range. It also improved high-speed imaging, broadband optical communications, and ultrafast laser display and printing.

The findings were published in an issue of Nature Scientific Report in September.

Yin believes the advancement in technology like this, high speed imaging would now be in real-time, would be especially helpful in the medical industry. It would allow, for example, optometrists, who use a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of a person’s retina, would be able to have the 3D image of their patient’s retinas as the surgery is being performed. This means they would be able to see what needs to be corrected or changed during the procedure.

The research team are also confident their findings will be able to benefit the wider world too. A 3D printing that once took an hour, would now only take seconds, and 20,000 pages printed in 2D would take around one minute.

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