Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The University of Texas (UT) at Austin have developed what they claim is the ‘world’s first’ chip-based 3D printer. 

The 3D printer prototype’s coin-sized optical device features no moving parts and is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. It consists of a millimeter-scale photonic chip that emits reconfigurable light into a vat of liquid photocurable resin. 

The resin was designed to rapidly cure when exposed to the visible wavelengths of light emitted by the chip’s array of tiny optical antennas. This allows small structures and patterns to be produced in seconds. The researchers demonstrated the capabilities of the chip-based 3D printer by fabricating a microscale MIT logo, small enough to fit on the face of a US nickel.   

According to the team’s research paper, these findings mark the first steps to developing a highly compact, portable and low-cost 3D printer for the fast production of customized parts on the go. 

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