Light provides control for 3D printing with multiple materials

ScienceDaily | 3/12/2019 | Staff
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Successful applications have come despite the fact that most 3D printing techniques can only produce parts made of one material at a time. More complex applications could be developed if 3D printers could use different materials and create multi-material parts.

New research uses different wavelengths of light to achieve this complexity. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed a novel 3D printer that uses patterns of visible and ultraviolet light to dictate which of two monomers are polymerized to form a solid material. Different patterns of light provide the spatial control necessary to yield multi-material parts. The work was published Feb. 15 in the journal Nature Communications.

Printing - Cases - Color - UW-Madison - Professor

"As amazing as 3D printing is, in many cases it only offers one color with which to paint," says UW-Madison Professor of Chemistry A.J. Boydston, who led the recent work with his graduate student Johanna Schwartz. "The field needs a full color palette."

Boydston and Schwartz knew that improved printing materials required a chemical approach to complement engineering advances.

Shift - Printing - Types - Materials - Object

"This is a shift in how we think about 3D printing with multiple types of materials in one object," Boydston says. "This is more of a bottom-up chemist's approach, from molecules to networks."

3D printing is the process of making solid three-dimensional objects from a digital file by successively adding thin layers of material on top of previous layers. Most multi-material 3D printing methods use separate reservoirs of materials to get different materials in the right positions.

Boydston - Approach - Chemist - Approach - Molecules

But Boydston realized that a one-vat, multiple-component approach -- similar to a chemist's one-pot approach when synthesizing molecules -- would be more practical than multiple reservoirs with different materials. This approach is based on the ability of different wavelengths of light to control which starting materials polymerize into different sections of the solid product. Those starting materials start as simple chemicals, known as...
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