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Beckman Institute researchers develop new sustainable technique to 3D print multiple colours from a single ink

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Beckman Institute researchers inspired by the colour-changing abilities of chameleons, developed a sustainable technique to 3D print multiple colours from a single ink
Beckman Institute researchers inspired by the colour-changing abilities of chameleons, developed a sustainable technique to 3D print multiple colours from a single ink/Image Credit: Sanghyun Jeon, Diao Lab

Researchers from Beckman Institute, a unit of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, created a new sustainable method to 3D print multiple colours using a single ink. The process can change structural colours in the visible wavelength spectrum, ranging from deep blue to orange. UV-assisted direct-ink-write 3D printing can change structural colour during the printing process, resulting in vibrant and potentially more sustainable colours.

The technique is inspired by chameleons’ color-changing ability, which allows for the 3D printing of multiple, dynamic colors from a single ink.

“By designing new chemistries and printing processes, we can modulate structural colour on the fly to produce colour gradients not possible before,” said Ying Diao, an associate professor of chemistry and chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Sustainable technique to 3D print multiple colours from a single ink

Beckman Institute researchers
Top row, left to right: Professors Simon Rogers, Ying Diao, Charles Sing, and Damien Guironnet. Bottom row, left to right: Yash Kamble, Sanghyun Jeon, Jiachun Shi, Haisu Kang, and Tianyuan Pan. Not pictured: Matthew Wade and Bijal Patel/Image Credit: Jenna Kurtzweil, Beckman Institute Communications Office.

The paper, titled “Direct-Ink-Write Crosslinkable Bottlebrush Block Polymers for On-the-Fly Control of Structural Colour,” was published in the journal PNAS.

“This work is a great illustration of the power of collaboration,” said co-author Damien Guironnet, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Diao and her colleagues present a UV-assisted direct-ink-write 3D printing method that can change structural color during the printing process by adjusting light to control the evaporative assembly of specially designed crosslinking polymers.

“Unlike traditional colours which come from chemical pigments or dyes that absorb light, the structural colours abundant in many biological systems come from nano-textured surfaces that interfere with visible light. This makes them more vibrant and potentially more sustainable.”

– Sanghyun Jeon, the lead author and a graduate student in the Diao Lab

The researchers can create structural colours in the visible wavelength spectrum ranging from deep blue to orange. While an artist may use a variety of paints to create this color gradient, the research team uses a single ink and modifies how it is printed.

“The work shows the benefit of us all having learned from each other by sharing our successes and challenges,” said coauthor Simon Rogers, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

According to co-author Charles Sing, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering as well as materials science and engineering, “Only by working together could we design this system at the molecular level to yield such fascinating properties.”


About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Global News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Follow us on Google News.

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Abhimanyu Chavan is the founder of Manufactur3D Magazine. He writes on Additive Manufacturing technology, interviews industry leaders, shares industry insights, and expresses his thoughts on the latest developments in the industry. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
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