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A new 3D printer prints Lego bricks and glasses ‘in minutes’

The desktop printer, developed by engineers at MIT, is 10 times faster than other commercial counterparts. So could 3D printing soon become a viable production technique?

It can print Lego bricks and spectacles – even miniature replicas of buildings – in a matter of minutes. By way of comparison, most other commercial 3D printers would take at least an hour.

MIT’s new 3D printer is, in fact, up to 10 times faster than other desktop models. Could it, then, pave the way for 3D printing to become a truly mainstream production technique?

John Hart, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, believes so.

“If I’m a repair technician and I could have a fast 3D printer in my vehicle, I could 3D-print a repair part on-demand after I figure out what’s broken,” he said. “I don’t have to go to a warehouse and take it out of inventory.” 

The 3D printer that he and his colleagues designed features a compact printhead. This contains a laser which quickly heats and melts the material, meaning it can flow faster though the printhead’s nozzle.

“We’re interested in applying this technique to more advanced materials, like high strength polymers, composite materials,” Hart added. “We are also working on larger-scale 3D printing, not just printing desktop-scale objects but bigger structures for tooling, or even furniture. The capability to print fast opens the door to many exciting opportunities.”