Ultrafast 2-D and 3-D Printing Now Possible
Researchers from Penn State's College of Engineering have presented a major technological breakthrough: high-speed beam scanning devices that can increase the speed of 2-D and 3-D printing up to 1000 times.
With the aid of a space-charge-controlled KTN beam deflector, a kind of crystal made of potassium tantalate and potassium niobate, and a large electro-optic effect, researchers have discovered that scanning at a vastly improved speed is now possible. This revolutionary research was published in an issue of Nature's Scientific Reports.
"Basically, when the crystal materials are applied to an electric field, they generate uniform reflecting distributions, that can deflect an incoming light beam," revealed Stuart 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."
Because of this limitation, Yin and his team of researchers eliminated the electric field-induced phase transition in a nanodisordered KTN crystal by making it work at a higher temperature. Going beyond the Curie temperature (the temperature in which certain materials lose their magnetic properties, replaced by induced magnetism), Yin and his team surpassed the critical end point (in which a liquid and its vapor can coexist).
Through this improvement, Yin and his colleagues were able to increase scanning speed from the microsecond range to the nanosecond regime. This vastly improves high-speed imaging, broadband optical communications, and ultrafast laser display and printing. According to Yin, something being printed in 3-D that once took an hour would now take seconds, and 20,000 pages printed in 2-D would take one minute.
Yin said the medical field would greatly benefit from high-speed imaging that could now be done in real-time. Optometrists, who use a non-invasive imaging test utilizing light waves to take cross-section pictures of a person's retina, would be able to have the 3-D image of their patients' retinas as they are performing the surgery. This would allow optometrists to perform the procedure more effectively.