There’s a new way to 3D print — and it involves printing liquids inside of other liquids. The discovery, made by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, could lead to major advancements in product development.
The printer was adapted to print liquids by replacing the extruder with a syringe pump that feeds into a fine needle, squirting water instead of molten plastic.
With a little re-programming, the 3D printer was able to make three-dimensional patterns, compared to standard two-dimensional ones.
Water is the liquid being used and silicon oil is the base, with modifications made to both. Researchers wanted to create a continuous liquid structure that would hold its shape over time. So they added gold nanoparticles to the water — and polymer ligands (which bond to metal) to the silicon oil.
When the water mixture is infused into the silicon oil, the gold nanoparticles intermingle with the polymer ligands to create an elastic sheath around the water, which keeps it in place.