Among the unique assets provided by 3D printers is their ability to create synthetic materials. It has long helped fields such as bioprinting and medicine. This time, researchers at Duke have developed a new metamaterial that can potentially serve as a crucial component of wireless technology. The team designed the material in question so that it would exhibit electromagnetic properties. The implications of the research are that these sorts of complex materials with wide-ranging applications are printable even on commercially available additive manufacturing devices.
Upon closer inspection, the material looks like a series of cubes. This is because it’s an arrangement of various parts, each tailored to specifically interact with an electromagnetic wave in a certain way. The combination of the cubes allows researchers to give the material it’s own unique properties. Such a structure would be too complex for traditional manufacturing methods to arrange without extensive time or expense.
What are Metamaterials?
Metamaterials are synthetic composites that exhibit properties not found in nature. This could refer to the ability to manipulate light or sound or radio waves but not always. Metamaterials development is a major asset for any industry that employs radio or sound sensors or light refraction. For this reason, they are a fitting choice for developing wireless tech like wi-fi sensors or bluetooth devices.
Metamaterials have a somewhat vague definition because they are difficult to pin down. Some metamaterials don’t even have to be a singular material. They can also be representative of a design approach that allows for properties that aid in achieving some engineered purpose.
3D Printed Synthetic Materials
One of the most interesting aspects of this development is that it was executed with commercially available 3D printers. This opens up the door for many labs to employ cheaper solutions to this field. Not only can researchers make the materials, they have also noted the high quality of the prints. The researchers have stated that the 3D printed metamaterials are more receptive to sound by a factor of 14 times compared to that of its 2D counterparts.
The lead scientists have stressed that the most crucial aspect was finding a material that would work with a commercial printer. The key issue was finding a suitable printer-friendly electrically conductive material. Since most FFF printers use plastic and metal printers are far too expensive, the team took another route. They decided to use Electrifi by Multi3D LLC, a synthetic conductive material previously developed by another Duke alumnus.