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Materials & Assembly
Video: 3D-Printed Liquid Metal Structures at Room Temperature
8/19/2013

A research team at North Carolina State University has figured out how to 3D print small structures made from liquid metal -- at room temperatures. The freestanding 3D-printed structures retain their liquid state, yet are stable.   (Source: Michael Dickey/North Carolina State University)
A research team at North Carolina State University has figured out how to 3D print small structures made from liquid metal -- at room temperatures. The freestanding 3D-printed structures retain their liquid state, yet are stable.
(Source: Michael Dickey/North Carolina State University)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Printed liquid metal
Ann R. Thryft   9/9/2013 1:05:10 PM
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Thanks for the clarification. As an asker of pointy questions myself, I know what you mean. In this case, there's no damage or uncomfortableness on my end. Safety wasn't mentioned because it didn't come up.

William K.
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Re: Printed liquid metal
William K.   9/6/2013 8:48:57 PM
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Ann, sometimes asking pointy questions is a lot like throwing stones, in that they may cause some damage. Perhaps not the best analogy for this particular time, but really, the question about safety was made because safety was not mentioned. Sokmetimes the very most useful things are taken away because they are a bit toxic. Just look at lead in solder, as a good example of that happening.

William K.
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Re: Printed liquid metal
William K.   9/6/2013 8:48:57 PM
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Ann, sometimes asking pointy questions is a lot like throwing stones, in that they may cause some damage. Perhaps not the best analogy for this particular time, but really, the question about safety was made because safety was not mentioned. Sokmetimes the very most useful things are taken away because they are a bit toxic. Just look at lead in solder, as a good example of that happening.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Printed liquid metal
Ann R. Thryft   9/6/2013 12:58:32 PM
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William, thanks for the clarification. I like your use of that term, although I don't see how it applies to your earlier comment.



William K.
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Re: Printed liquid metal
William K.   9/5/2013 9:05:25 PM
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Ann, actually, I mean pointy, in that often, when they impact, they are uncomfortable. Plus, they tend to stick until answered. But you could also use the more traditional term of "pointed" and be correct as well.

Use of "pointy" desccribing questions is something that I learned during a course on how to keep people's attention duringpresentations I would be giving. A short course in showmanship was the other course I took at that time, both of them have been useful. An engineer who is quite at ease speaking to a room full of managers is more likely to be believed, no matter if he is right or wrong. And for people who don't understand the subject intimately, they do have to go by impressions.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Printed liquid metal
Ann R. Thryft   9/4/2013 12:42:08 PM
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William, you always ask excellent questions (I think you meant pointed, right?). Anyway, you'll have to ask the authors yourself for an answer to that one.

William K.
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Re: Printed liquid metal
William K.   9/3/2013 4:27:30 PM
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Ann, those two descriptors make me quite concerned, since they also describe mercury quite well. It also alloys with many other metals and also develops a very thin skin. Actually, it develops a thin film, I would not call it a skin.

So now comes a question about the toxisity of this wonderful new material. Isn't it awful when people keep asking pointy questions?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Printed liquid metal
Ann R. Thryft   9/3/2013 12:02:58 PM
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William, that was my concern, too about strength. There's not much in the article about this. The authors do describe one experimental prototype device, where "The liquid metal bridge connecting the LEDs functioned up to the strain limit of PDMS [polydimethylsiloxane] (Figure 4 b, ∼ 35% strain) and while being flexed without losing its electrical continuity."
Not much is said about electrical properties, but one thing they mentioned was that "electrical resistance remains largely unaffected because the skin is thin. In addition, the liquid metal adheres to most surfaces and alloys with many metals to form ohmic contacts."

William K.
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Printed liquid metal
William K.   8/31/2013 8:33:31 PM
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This is quite impressive but not quite jaw dropping. Some of these alloys have ben around for a while, such as Kirksite, a low temperature melting metal used for a number of things, and quite hard, also.

The electrical properties would be interesting to know, and I can see that it probably has a bit of resistance, so it would not work for high currents. My concern would be the lack of strength. Consider what could happen if the assembly with this material as the interconnect got bumped a bit too hard, and the connections rearranged themselves. THAT could be quite a pain.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Extruded Metal
Ann R. Thryft   8/27/2013 4:23:38 PM
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Isn't this a mind-boggle? To answer your question, the paper does not mention voltage at all. It does say "Injection of liquid metal into microchannels is an established method to shape the metal for reconfigurable wires and antennas, interconnects, electrical components for microfluidics, and "soft" electrodes for electrical characterizations of thin films."

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