Throughout 3D printing, there have been some interesting products manufactured. Most of the credit has been given to the designers. In my opinion, the material science behind 3D printing should get some more credit! The hours of research and testing piled into producing usable materials deserves at least a mention.
Recently, there has been an emphasis on material science across the 3D printing industry. Power houses like Objet have been releasing material after material, changing the face of 3D printing. Some of the materials used within this technology are pretty interesting, while others are very odd. Here’s a quick summary of some interesting materials used within this industry.
Yup, that’s right – chocolate. “Material engineers” have figured out a way to use chocolate within 3D printing to manufacture some seriously delicious treats. Using computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) systems found in 3D printers, you too can have your designs developed in this delicious material.
Biomedical professionals like Anthony Atala are working to accomplish miracles through material used in 3D printers which are often referred to as “bio-ink”. This bio-ink consists of cells & stem cells that come from a patient; these cells will be laid down layer-by-layer to generate tissue. The only successful human organs replicated through this technology are bladders, blood vessels, and portions of kidneys.
Dr. Sushmita Bose and her team at Washington State University recently 3D printed a bone like material which consists of calcium phosphate, silicon, and zinc. This bonelike material was combined with a section of undeveloped human bone cells. In just about a week, new bone grew along the structure. This “bone material” eventually dissolved, and hasn’t appeared to have damaged the patient.
Objet has revolutionized the world of 3D printing by incorporating printers than can use multiple materials at once. These multi-jet printers have been creating some intricate models that offer a variety of colors, textures, and attributes. Objet refers to these mixtures as digital material.
Although apart of the digital materials, I believed that the Objet Tango family deserved its own mention.
This material is the only “rubber-like” material that exists in 3D printing! Although this material isn’t 100% congruent with rubber, it is pretty similar!
Although not a significant breakthrough, this experiment speaks for the creativity of hobbyist manufacturers. Why not? Designers hooked up a common hot glue gun to their (CAM) system, and this is what they got! I don’t mean to say that hot glue is a significant material, just the fact that hobbyists are testing and becoming their own material specialists. Who knows what hobbyists are going to use next?
Believe it or not, full color sandstone offers… full color! This material allows for the production of 3D printed creations with virtually any color. Intricate designs for architecture, action figures, and character models are rising in popularity with this material. Through 3D scanning, your face can even be 3D printed! The detail levels aren’t too shabby either.
Some services like shapeways have incorporated glass 3D printing in their “arsenal” of materials. This process is very similar to the process behind full color sandstone. Ground up glass powder is spread layer by layer, bonded with adhesive spray, then baked – yielding a 3D printed glass product!
3D Printing has stepped its feet within the boundaries of medicine! Doctors and engineers are working together again to create 3D printed medication. That’s right – some people pick up their medication from the pharmacy, while others are a little bit more creative.
Similar to the bio-ink listed earlier, 3D printers are becoming responsible for regenerating skin! This could change the way burn patients receive treatment. As this technology develops, the medical world in which we live in won’t be the same. The potential for regenerative medical applications is skyrocketing!
Material science plays a huge role in the world of 3D printing; the actual materials & efficiency of printing these materials dictates what 3D printing can accomplish. As material specialists in companies like Objet keep pressing the envelope, who knows what we’ll be able to pull out of a printer?
Chris Waldo is a technology enthusiast and copywriter with a focus in 3D printing. He is currently working as the Content Manager for the 3D printing network, Kraftwurx.
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