3-D printers have become a household name, but their potential to transform industrial manufacturing has yet to be realized. 3-D printing involves depositing a thin layer of material — often a curable polymer or powder — on a surface and applying energy to cure or fuse the material only in selected locations, then repeating the process to build up a part layer by layer.
To bring 3-D printing — also known as additive manufacturing — to the industrial scale, California-based Uniformity Labs is developing additive-manufacturing processes that are faster, more efficient and less expensive than today’s technologies.
“There is a lot of room for growth in production-scale additive manufacturing of components in industries such as aerospace, automotive technology, and energy and power generation,” said Adam Hopkins, CEO of Uniformity Labs, who earned his doctorate in chemistry and bachelor of arts in physics from Princeton in 2012 and 2005, respectively. Uniformity Labs is working to develop discoveries made in the laboratory of Salvatore Torquato, professor of chemistry and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, and Hopkins’ former adviser.
Torquato, Hopkins and their Princeton colleagues invented technologies for making starting materials that are less porous, and thus fuse more easily, than today’s materials. The research on low-porosity materials, which was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, could improve the quality of parts made by printing in metal, ceramic, cement, plastic and glass, among other materials. “We are developing technologies that are required for additive manufacturing to achieve its full potential,” Hopkins said.