3D printing isn't just for making stuff. It's also enabling the development of new metamaterials that don't exist in nature and that can be designed to do specific manufacturing jobs. Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and MIT have used 3D printing to engineer a new class: super-lightweight, high-stiffness, high-strength metamaterials with the same weight and density as aerogels, but about 10,000 times the stiffness.
Aerogels are already pretty incredible materials. They are gels in which liquid has been replaced by a gas, so they're extremely porous and their cellular structure has extremely low density. Known as frozen smoke or solid air, they are often used for their thermal insulation qualities.
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This microscope image shows a single unit in the new micro-lattice super-lightweight, high-stiffness, high-strength metamaterial developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT researchers. The stretch-dominated octet truss unit cell was made from a polymer using 3D projection micro-stereolithography, an additive manufacturing technique.
(Source: MIT/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)
The new LLNL/MIT materials were made using an additive micro-manufacturing technique called projection micro-stereolithography. In partnership with researchers at MIT, Harvard, and the University of Illinois, the LLNL team is working with four different additive manufacturing (AM) micro-manufacturing processes to create new materials composed of microstructures with micrometer resolutions. These processes are projection micro-stereolithography, direct-ink writing, electrophoretic deposition, and microfluidic flow focusing. Earlier this year, LLNL announced the development of its light-directed electrophoretic deposition micro-manufacturing process for making new types of composites.
New metamaterials being engineered with these methods will have different combinations of mechanical and thermal properties, such as strength, density, and thermal expansion, for different applications. The new LLNL/MIT materials, for example, have potential uses in aerospace.
Among other unusual properties, the LLNL team says that, even at extremely low density, the new micro-architected metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density. This characteristic doesn't change when the constituent material changes, either: the micro-lattices with nanoscale features that the team made with metals, ceramics, and polymers all exhibit this high stiffness. They show super-stiff properties across three orders of magnitude, and can withstand a load of at least 160,000 times their weight. That's quite unlike the mechanical properties of most lightweight cellular materials, which tend to bend under an applied load, so they degrade as density is reduced.
The MIT team says that the geometry of these microstructures was known several years ago, but the means for making them was not possible until now. The MIT team and the LLNL team have been working on the highly precise 3D printing projection microstereolithography process since 2008.
The new materials are 100 times stiffer than other ultra-lightweight lattice materials that have been reported in various academic journals. The teams describe their work in an article in Science magazine (purchase or subscription). It was funded by DARPA and LLNL.
a.saji, it all depends on how you define "printer." Gutenberg is famous for inventing the modern printing press -- defined as using mechanical moveable type, among other innovations -- in the 1400s. The Wikipedia article on him is pretty thorough. Before that, of course, there were other kinds of printing, such as wood block.
I didn't really know that printing was invented way back 1400. It has a really long history considering that computers were develop later than that. I know that I am using a good printer and a brother printer all in one so I really want to know anything about printers.
Wow! That's a great breakthrough. 3D printing has opened countless new doors for every industry, and has taken us heaps of years ahead by not only generating available resources in an efficient manner but also discovering new and more powerful materials in its way. Congrats!
Hey 78, mind-boggling, isn't it? And we thought military-grade composites were amazing back when doing those jobs. They were, of course--I agree about mission creep, although that could be expanded in general to expectations creep. Anyway, metamaterials, whether made by 3D printing or other methods, will likely become a bigger deal in future. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on a research report on same.
Wow! They support 160,000 times their weight. Imagine that such materials were available in the 1960s -- along with plastics and microprocessors. The Atlas missiles that carried men to the moon could have been a lot smaller and cheaper. But then mission creep and creeping elegance would probably have raised the requirements. A lot of open source opportunities and X-Prize concepts might be the ticket to the future.
The idea of new materials that can be made with additive manufacturing processes makes me think of science fiction all over again. It will be interesting to see what develops in this area during the next few years.
Many of the new adhesives we're featuring in this slideshow are for use in automotive and other transportation applications. The rest of these new products are for a wide variety of applications including aviation, aerospace, electrical motors, electronics, industrial, and semiconductors.
A Columbia University team working on molecular-scale nano-robots with moving parts has run into wear-and-tear issues. They've become the first team to observe in detail and quantify this process, and are devising coping strategies by observing how living cells prevent aging.
Many of the new materials on display at MD&M West were developed to be strong, tough replacements for metal parts in different kinds of medical equipment: IV poles, connectors for medical devices, medical device trays, and torque-applying instruments for orthopedic surgery. Others are made for close contact with patients.
New sensor technology integrates sensors, traces, and electronics into a smart fabric for wearables that measures more dimensions -- force, location, size, twist, bend, stretch, and motion -- and displays data in 3D maps.
As we saw on the show floor this week at the Pacific Design & Manufacturing and co-located events in Anaheim, Calif., 3D printing is contributing to distributed manufacturing and being reinvented by engineers for their own needs. Meanwhile, new fasteners are appearing for wearable consumer and medical devices and Baxter Robot has another software upgrade.
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