Co-extrusion 3D Printing from PARC
Parc – a Xerox company – has created a novel 3D printing tech called co-extrusion. The name refers to the machine taking two different materials and pushing them out through a single nozzle – without mixing them. The core principles behind this method are to allow the two distinctive materials to shape each other and thus enable the creation of micron-scale structures – which would be impossible to achieve via more conventional 3D printing processes.
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The materials that have been tested on the PARC device consist of viscous pastes including metals, ceramics and polymers, which can be applied to the printing surface in a customized manner – i.e. individually for each region of the final 3D printed structure. The method has already been tested and used in a pilot production line of a solar cell manufacturing company. Other potential applications include batteries, fuel cells, thermoelectrics, superconductors and nuclear fuels.
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However, an even more interesting angle than the core of PARC’s co-extrusion – the tech itself – is its potential use in mass production. Creating a novel technology, which not only enables the creation of structures and objects that would be impossible to make in any other way, but also does it in a way similar to traditional assembly or other production lines – thus saving costs. This is a relevant angle for the whole future of the 3D printing industry, as for how to compete with the conventional manufacturing method lines and their scaled economic benefits – it seems that approaches such as the one PARC has developed might prove to be a winning combination – of both tech and cost-savings – in the future.