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A new, 3D printable smart material developed at the University of Nottingham in the UK has presented researchers with a novel way of storing, and hiding, information.

Laden with photochromic particles, the material changes color in reaction light, then turns back again when exposed to air.

Theory - Dr - Graham - Newton - Something

“In theory,” explains project co-lead Dr. Graham Newton, “it would be possible to reversibly encode something quite complex like a QR code or a barcode [in these 3D printed parts], and then wipe the material clean, almost like cleaning a whiteboard with an eraser.”

But color changing abilities is just the tip of the iceberg.

Chameleon - Printing

Chameleon 3D printing

Photochromic materials have been explored before using 3D printing, producing the color-changing “mood ring” from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

Application - Inks - Inkjet - Technology - Consumer

In this application different colored photochromic inks were 3D printed using inkjet technology, unlocking potential for future consumer goods.

However, in the University of Nottingham research, photochromic particles are added to a light-curable material for use in a digital light processing (DLP) 3D printer.

DLP - Printers - Comparison - Printers - Desktop

DLP 3D printers are generally more affordable in comparison to inkjet 3D printers, especially if using a desktop machine.

In Nottingham’s case, a LittleRP open DLP 3D printer was used for the study. Excluding the light source (provided by the user) the LittleRP retails at approximately $599 for a kit.

Test - Experiment - Nottingham - Researchers - Print

As a test experiment, Nottingham researchers chose to 3D print a gyroid cube structure.

Before 3D printing, photochromic particles were stirred into the material for...
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