At the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, PhD candidate Jens Bauer is pushing the limits of materials science, leveraging 3D printing’s ability to create materials with novel structures.
Using a Nanoscribe 3D printer, Bauer’s team has created a micro additive manufacturing method that lazes selective paths that emerge from layers of liquid plastic. By carefully tuning the system’s laser to harden certain regions of their liquid substrate, the KIT team can build materials that minimize material use while still providing tremendous structural strength.
As part of their research, Bauer’s team experimented with a number of different structural configurations and even improved the strength of their materials by coating them with a thin layer of aluminum oxide. Surprisingly, even with its additional metal film the group found that its best configuration, a honeycomb shaped lattice, would float on water and was as strong as many steel alloys.
While the Nanoscribe 3D is still in its experimental phase, it’s becoming more and more apparent that nanoscale 3D printing is opening up a number of opportunities for those working in the fields of MEMs engineering, circuit designs and even material science. As the technology begins to mature I expect a vibrant and innovative industry to spring up, proving that 3D printing has relevance both on the macro and micro scale.
Images Courtesy of Jen Zauer, KIT