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A major technological advance in the field of high speed beam-scanning devices can increase the speed of 2D and 3D printing by up to 1000 times, researchers have reported. Using a space-charge-controlled KTN beam deflector — a kind of crystal made of potassium tantalate and potassium niobate — with a large electro-optic effect, the researchers found that scanning at a much higher speed is possible. This research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could benefit everyone, in that something being printed in 3D that once took an hour would now take seconds, and 20,000 pages printed in 2D would take one minute, said Shizhuo Yin, Professor at School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Pennsylvania State University, US.
“Basically, when the crystal materials are applied to an electric field, they generate uniform reflecting distributions, that can deflect an incoming light beam,” Yin said. “We conducted a systematic study on indications of speed and found out the phase transition of the electric field is one of the limiting factors,” Yin noted.
To overcome this issue, Yin and his team of researchers, eliminated the electric field-induced phase transition in a nanodisordered KTN crystal by making it work at a higher temperature. They not only went beyond the Curie temperature (the temperature in which certain materials lose their magnetic properties, replaced by induced magnetism), they went beyond the critical end point in which a liquid and its vapour can coexist.
This increased the scanning speed from the microsecond range to the nanosecond regime and improved high-speed imaging, broadband optical communications, and ultra-fast laser display and printing, said the study.
A technology like this would be especially meaningful in the medical industry — high speed imaging would now be in real-time, Yin said.
For example, optometrists who use a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of a person’s retina, would be able to have the 3D image of their patients’ retinas as they are performing the surgery, so they can see what needs to be corrected during the procedure, the researchers explained.