Bristol University has created a brand new form of 3D printing

Digital Arts | 18 January 16

A PhD student at the University of Bristol has developed modules that allow the printing of composite materials, which can be stronger and lighter than conventional plastics. If commercialised, this could let you print a wider range of objects in your studio or home.

Composites combine multiple materials to create objects that are in many ways better than either of its constituents – such as the carbon-fibre–reinforced polymers (usually shortened to carbon fibre) used in better golf clubs, bicycle frames and tennis rackets (as in this wonderfully cheesy image created by the University below).

Tom Llewellyn-Jones has developed a process that involves using ultrasonic waves to position millions of fibres inside an object that's being 3D printed that reinforce the base material (see the GIF below). When they're positioned, a laser beam sets them in place.

The process is achieved using an ultrasonic apparatus that sits under the printing bed, with the laser added to the printing carriage. Tom says that it's relatively cheap to add such modules to an off-the-shelf 3D printer.

In a study published in the Smart Materials and Structures journal, Tom demonstrated printing using the technique at 20mm/s.