Stanford University researchers have developed a new composite 3D printing material intended primarily for use in nanoscale lattice-like structures used to protect tiny underlying components (such as those in electronics). It is made up of a polymer resin and tiny clumps of metal atoms known as metal nanoclusters.
The new material allows even the smallest snowflake of a part to be much stronger than before and printed much faster.
Composite 3D Printing Material for Stronger Nanostructures
A laser is shone into a liquid resin mixture in an existing process known as two-photon lithography. A chemical reaction occurs when the very center of that beam strikes one of the nanoclusters, causing the resin to harden in that specific area. As a result, by precisely moving the laser beam through the resin, very small, intricate objects can be constructed.
When lattices printed from this material were tested, it was discovered that they could absorb twice as much energy as lattices printed from other commonly used materials. Depending on the type of lattice made from the new composite, some excelled at carrying a heavy load without deforming, while others excelled at absorbing impacts and then springing back into their original undamaged form.
“There’s a lot of interest right now in designing different types of 3D structures for mechanical performance. What we’ve done on top of that is develop a material that is really good at resisting forces, so it’s not just the 3D structure, but also the material that provides very good protection.”– Asst. Prof. Wendy Gu, corresponding author of a paper on the research
As an added bonus, the metal nanoclusters allowed the chemical reaction to occur much faster than it did in other materials that used different types of photosensitive molecules when the lattices were printed. This effect was observed even when a variety of polymers were used in the composite; for example, when a protein-based polymer was used, items could be printed 100 times faster than previously possible with such polymers.
The study was recently published in the journal Science.
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