A startup company has developed a new 3D printing technology that uses light and oxygen to print solid objects at speeds 25 to 100 times faster than current 3D printing technology.

The Silicon Valley startup, Carbon 3D, Inc, says that this new technology enables objects to rise from a liquid media continuously rather than being built layer by layer as they have for the past 25 years. This new method represents a fundamentally different approach to 3D printing.

This new 3D printing technology not only allows for products to be made 25 to 100 times faster, but it can also create previously unachievable geometries that open up more opportunities for further innovation not only in health care and medicine, but also in other major industries such as automotive and aviation.

This new technology, known as Continuous Liquid Interface Production, or CLIP for short, manipulates oxygen and light to fuse objects in a liquid media, creating the first 3D printing process that uses tunable photochemistry instead of layer by layer production that has defined the industry for decades.

The technology works by projecting beams of light through an oxygen permeable window into liquid resin. Working in tandem, the light and oxygen control the solidification process of the resin and create commercially viable objects that can have feature sizes below 20 microns, which is less than one-quarter the width of a piece of paper.

"By rethinking the whole approach to 3D printing, and the chemistry and physics behind the process, we have developed a new technology that can create parts radically faster than traditional technologies by essentially 'growing' them in a pool of liquid," said Joseph M DeSimone, professor of chemistry at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and CEO of Carbon3D.

Carbon3D and UNC-Chapel Hill are currently pursuing advances to the technology as well as new material that will be compatible with it.

CLIP enables a much wider range of material to be used to make 3D parts with unique properties, including elastomers, silicones, nylon-like materials, ceramics and biodegradable materials.

"In addition to using new materials, CLIP can allow us to make stronger objects with unique geometries that other techniques cannot achieve, such as cardiac stents personally tailored to meet the needs of a specific patient," said DeSimone.

"Since CLIP facilitates 3D polymeric object fabrication in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days, it would not be impossible within coming years to enable personalised coronary stents, dental implants or prosthetics to be 3D printed on-demand in a medical setting," DeSimone added.