Taiwan may be a small country but it’s definitely one of the most advanced when it comes to technology and electronics. It is home to HTC, ASUS, Acer, BenQ, Foxconn, and Pegatron. These are the names we’re familiar with in the tech and mobile industries. It is where one of the biggest companies in the semiconductor business is based.

Taiwanese scientists and researchers are working hard to improve a number of technologies including 3D printing. What’s good in the country is that the government funds such endeavours to ensure that they can keep up with other regions and business. Because of this, 3D printing technology started to develop and advanced in some areas.

Michael Molitch-Hou of the 3D Printing Industry website happened to visit the country recently to see what Taiwan Tech has been working on. He met with Professor Jeng Ywam-Jeng of the Mechanical Engineering and his research assistants at Taiwan Tech. He was shown off the latest in 3D printing. No, it wasn’t just a new and improved 3D printer but a new one that is actually smartphone-based.

The research group led by Professor Jeng is determined to improve the technology. This certainly has potential to revolutionize 3D printing. Aside from the actual printer, the professor is also working on a 3D scanning software that can be installed on the phone. The idea is for it to be used to take images that can be used as “texture map to wrap around a generic 3D model” as described.

So what’s a smartphone-based 3D printer? It’s a smaller 3D printer that is said to be capable of using light from the smartphone’s screen to cure resin layer by later. The goal is to make a less complicated 3D printer that would hopefully, change the landscape of the industry. You see, 3D printers today are huge, bulky, and expensive. There may be other similar attempts but we have no update yet on those concept ideas. Prof. Jeng’s work is the closest so far. It’s not into mass production yet because the research group is still testing the smartphone printer.

smartphone 3d printer

The idea of the phone printer is to place a vat of coated resin on top of a mobile device, either phone or a tablet. A metal printbed is held above the vat where the resin is cured onto. Curing is done layer by layer. You’ll see the platform going up as it “prints”. One of the main challenges of the team is the slow speed of printing because of little light coming from the smartphone. Light cures the photopolymer material but since smartphone light is dim, there is some kind of a slowdown.

Research assistant Hanhsuan Lee shared:

“We’ve tried to 3D print a hollow ball and achieved layer thicknesses of about 100 microns. And there’s no need to enclose the printer in a dark box. Just to shut the lights off in part of a room. As you know, the power of light on a smartphone is very low, so our print speed is still relatively slower than other vat polymerization machines now, but we are working hard to solve this problem and seem to getting promising results recently.”

The team is definitely getting there. They’ve even applied for several patents in the United States and Taiwan related to this project. They also won the Gold Award in the “2015 3D Printing Innovation Application Contest” in the country so you know this is worth all the money, time, and efforts.

VIA: 3D Printing Industry