Apr 19, 2015

Emerging synergy of lasers and 3d printers with real-time scanning and cutting

What is cooler then lasers? Well, lasers and 3d printers combined! duh! At some time at past I have argued on some forums that lasers will become integral parts of 3d printers and I was met with lot of opposition. There have been some attempts to integrate laser based 3d scanners into 3d printers even in commercial products but it is far from wide acceptance.
Yet, adding a laser with sensing electronics can give you so much more then just cheap 3d scanning.

Here is a video by Claudio Di Leo, MIT student, who attached a InīŦniter VLM-650-27 line laser to a Solidoodle which uses a 2MP web camera to scan printbed enabling it to 3d print on place object. The entire upgrade costs some 50 USD but increases the ability of the machine.

Now, what would happen if you turn up the power on the laser?

There are several simple DIY laser cutter projects based on replacing the extruder but what if a laser cutter would be a separate tool moving independently?

Here is a video demonstration of laser cutting 3d printed PLA object. As you can see it can be done easily.

Here is a project with detailed guide and software on how to make springs with a laser cutter from different materials but also features PLA 3d printed tube:

Here are detailed instructions for spring laser cutter:

So, what could we achieve if we integrate active lasers into 3d printers:

  1. 3d scanning
  2. real-time scanning of print volume for continuous 3d print calibration, sensing failure and continuation of aborted prints
  3. 3d printing on objects attached to a print surface
  4. laser cutting printed objects giving new dimensions to 3d printed objects
  5. "standard" laser cutting of sheet materials, engraving and PCB processing
This could be the next big thing :-)