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Electrochemical Additive Manufacturing (ECAM) is a new method of low-cost metal fabrication in development at Imperial College London (ICL). Expanding on a presentation of the technique from Advanced Materials Technologies in August 2017, the ICL team has recently published a paper on ECAM’s potential for 4D printing.
Dr. Billy Wu is one of the three corresponding authors of the new ECAM article for Scientific Reports. In his tenure as Senior Lecturer in Energy and Manufacturing at the ICL Dyson School of Design Engineering, Dr. Wu also co-leads the university’s Additive Manufacturing Network (AMN). 3D Printing Industry speaks to Dr. Wu to learn more the ICL’s team’s vision for self-assembling metal.
ECAM - Fabrication - Method - Principles - Metal
ECAM is a fabrication method based on the principles of electroplating, commonly used to add more valuable metal layers to pieces of jewelry. It uses a liquid solution of electrified metal ions as a feedstock, creating solid layers of metal upon contact with a negatively charged copper bed. Common materials used for this process, as explained by Dr. Wu, include “copper, zinc, nickel and tin,” though it is also possible to use alloys. “Essentially,” he adds, “any metal that can be electroplated can be used in the ECAM process.”
One of the benefits of an electrochemical process over other metal fabrication techniques, that rely on laser power for example, is that it becomes much easier to fuse multiple metals together. In turn, this allows scientists to experiment with different material combinations, and explore possibilities otherwise impossible in single metal structures. One such possibility, is the creation of 4D printed metal objects, i.e. objects capable of transforming after fabrication. As stated by Dr. Wu, this is one the key developments of the team’s most recent publication, “we have now demonstrated the ability to print with multiple metals. […]”
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