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Smart 3D Printing Ink: Changing Structures’ Shape and Color

Interesting Engineering has recently caught wind of an innovative project spearheaded by researchers at Dartmouth College.

This team of engineers have managed to develop “Smart 3D Printing Ink” which allows structures to change shape and color, when introduced to various stimuli.  This new smart ink could “lead to an entirely new style of 3D printed materials.”

“The team at Dartmouth wanted to branch into the emerging technology of form-changing intelligent printing — aka 4D printing. Fans of 3D printing hope that 4D printing could offer a low-cost option for critical parts in areas like energy to biomechanics.”

As Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Dartmouth Chenfeng Ke explains: “this technique gives life to 3D printed objects.  While many 3D printed structures are just shapes that don’t reflect the molecular properties of the material, these inks bring functional molecules to the 3D printing world.  We can now print smart objects for a variety of uses.”

This process also allowed the researchers to “even shrink printed objects to 1% of their original size and with 10 times the resolution.  Using fluorescent trackers, the printed objects could change color in response to stimuli such as light…[This smart ink] could save researchers looking to leverage the technology for other disciplines time, money, and other resources.”

Ke adds: “this process can use a $1,000 printer to print what used to require a $100,000 printer.”

All the researchers working on this project at Dartmouth College conclude: “We believe this new approach will initiate the development of small molecule-based 3D printing materials and greatly accelerate the development of smart materials and devices beyond our current grasp that are capable of doing complex tasks in response to environmental stimuli.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Interesting Engineering

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