Apr 17, 2018 | By David

A team of researchers at Dartmouth, part of the Ke Research Group which is led by chemistry professor Chenfeng Ke, have succeeded in creating an innovative new 3D printing material. Their material is an ink that can react to environmental stimuli, enabling the printing of ‘smart’ 4D objects. The team worked in collaboration with scientists from Northwestern University and the University of Texas at Dallas, and their findings were published in the Angewandte Chemie International Edition journal.

(credit: Chenfeng Ke)

The Ke group’s focus in on developing smart materials for 3D and 4D-printing applications, as well as elastic crystalline porous organic materials for environmental and energy-related purposes. Their new 3D printing ink enables the production of items that will change their properties in response to heat or other chemicals. This transformative aspect, that allows further changes in an object after it has been 3D printed, gives rise to what is commonly referred to as 4D printing.

''When we talk about 3D printing, we can control the x, y and z axes,'' said Longyu Li, lead author of the paper. ''Now we can control the size, color and also the response of the object after printing. It’s a living system...Right now, people want things that respond to the information you give them. For example, people like artificial intelligence because it’s responsive, so the same thing happens in chemistry.''

(source: Dartmouth)

A huge advantage of this kind of 4D printing with smart inks is that it enables the production of complex structures and mechanisms with a drastically simplified and more accessible set of equipment. According to Li, the team’s method allows a $1,000 3D printer to print objects that would otherwise require the use of more expensive 3D printers, costing upwards of $100,000. Pre-programming this adaptive ‘fourth dimension’ into an object through the chemistry of the material itself means that much of the complex engineering and design work is already done.

There are a wide range of different disciplines where responsive chemicals are becoming increasingly popular. The Ke group’s work could be useful for fields such as engineering, as well as in bio-medical science. Smart materials can be used to put together all kinds of medical devices, particularly for the administration of drugs. 3D printing technology could be used to build devices that would respond to chemical triggers from certain areas of the body, delivering medications or other forms of adaptive treatment when needed.

(source: Chenfeng Ke)

''The brain processes a lot of information that elicits a response in the human body,'' Ke said. ''We want to mimic those processes at a very low level … with the creation of smart materials that mechanically respond to external stimuli.''

The team is also currently working alongside engineering professor Fiona Li, on an advanced energy storage research project. This will use the new 4D printing method to create a battery with smart features. Soft robotics is another area of application, with the Ke research group’s smart ink enabling the printing of robotics devices that can adapt to external factors and change their shape to suit different functions.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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