Is Disney Getting Involved with 3D Printing?

Disney 3D Printing

Disney Research announced that it has filed a patent for 3D printing technology that makes use of high-intensity light to help harden photo-sensitive resin in a single process, which would remove the need for traditional layer-by-layer printing. The patent has described a machine that will be able to print in “a nearly instantaneous manner.”

Disney 3D Patent

Presently a Slow and Time Consuming Process

Disney stated the following in its recent patent filing, “presently, 3D printing is extremely slow and time consuming. For example, it may take several hours to print a single 3D object even if the #d object is relatively small (e.g., several inches in diameter and four to 12 inches tall). The 3D printing process that uses conventional 3D printers … is limited in its speed by the speed of the mechanism moving the print head to each new position on a print layer.” [sic]

Similar to Stereo Lithography

Disney’s “3D Printing by Volumetric Addition Through Selective Curing of a Fluid Matrix” will work in a similar manner to stereo lithography (SLA) in that it uses two or more high-intensity light beams to help harden the photosensitive resin that is used during the printing process. However, unlike SLA printers, the printer proposed by Disney would not harden resin by drawing the outline of an object layer by later. Instead, the object will be projected right into the center of the resin, which will enable the whole model to be created at once.

Specific Resin to be used

The 3D printer will be using resin products that sure with invisible wavelengths that are less affected by levels of ambient light, and the patent goes on to describe three different light wavelengths. These include an “ultraviolet light” that has a wavelength of 365nm (nanometer), a “blue light” with a wavelength of 450 nm and a “violet light” that has a wavelength of 405nm. Disney noted that the resin would have to have the ability to both absorb and transmit light at the curing wavelength. The following was written, “The maximal curing depth determines the size of the largest object that can be cured. Higher transmission results in a slower rate of curing.”

Not Disney’s First 3D Experiment

Printed objects would be supported by the thick resin itself, and they would be able to be lifted out after printing has been completed. The patent also stated, “In several test operations, a 3D printer using photo-curing liquids has been proven effective in generating 3D objects in several minutes or less rather than several hours.” The SLA printer is not Disney’s first experiment in this field – others include filing a patent for a “Layered Fabric 3D Printer” that cuts out patterns and another that would limit unauthorized copying of its merchandise using a 3D printer that has the ability to authenticate the 3D or .stl (stereo lithography) file.

Disney stated, “The digital file defines not only the outer shell of the 3D object but also defines a unique identifier or identification (ID) element to be printed in the inner volume (within the outer shell) of the 3D object in one or more layers.” The ID element could be an RFID tag embedded in the 3D printed object.