How to Print Everything on a Single Machine
Kyle Maxey posted on November 01, 2013 |

3d printing, materials, hair, resin, chemistry, china, canada, electronics, biomaterial, plasticModern 3D printers are built for one thing: reproducing 3D designs in a printer’s native material. If you want your design in a different material, you’ll need to use a different printer; or at least that used to be the case.

A new 3D printing technique, developed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Western Ontario, could allow users to alter a single printing material for a variety of custom applications.

To develop this new technique, the Chinese-Canadian team began by impregnating 3D printing resin with bromine-containing acrylate. Once printed, this acrylate allows hair-like polymer brushes to grow on the surface of the print. The hairs are then altered through the use of surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization to take on any number of different properties.

In order to test their technique, researchers printed two separate lattices and painted them with different substances in the hopes of achieving opposite results. Their test was a success, and the same printing material produced a superhydrophobic lattice in one case and a superhydrophilic lattice in the other.

Currently, the team’s research only works on photopolymerisation-based 3D printing (i.e. with light-activated resins).  With time, however, the new approach could lead to the development of a base 3D printing material that can be engineered to have wide ranging applications through simple post-printing processes.

If that end could be achieved, complete assemblies for complex products could be printed with a single material. All you would need to do to add electronics, biomaterials, metals or plastics would be to paint the intended section with a corresponding chemical; similar to the way one would stain or lacquer wood.

Images and Video Courtesy of ChemistryWorldUK 

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