A few months ago, a team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute developed an engineering solution, SWIFT, which aims to make 3D-printed organs more viable. With it, the researchers were able to create synthetic, perfusion heart tissue that can be synchronized for seven days. Now, the same team has made new progress in 3D printing.
Researchers at the Wyss Institute have developed a technology that could clearly speed up the manufacture of complex 3D-printed objects. This technology, known as multi-material multi-nozzle 3D printing (MM3D), uses high-speed pressure valves to seamlessly switch between eight different printing materials to create complex shapes and objects. According to the team, each valve “can switch materials up to 50 times per second, faster than the naked eye can see, or as fast as hummingbirds flapping their wings.” “
This will then speed up the printing process. The team claims that MM3D only needs to use traditional methods, including single-nozzles and large multi-nozzle printheads, to create a small fraction of the time it takes to create such objects.
Mark Skylar-Scott, co-author of the paper, commented on the team’s work, saying:
THE MM3D EFFECTIVELY ELIMINATES THE TIME WASTED BY SWITCHING PRINT HEADS WITH THE ABILITY TO QUICKLY SWITCH BETWEEN MULTIPLE INKS AND HELPS REDUCE THE LAW OF SCALING FROM CUBIC TO LINEAR, SO YOU CAN PRINT PERIODIC 3D OBJECTS FOR MULTIPLE MATERIALS FASTER. “
A key element of this technology is a set of Y-shaped connection points that are precisely tuned to prevent ink mixing or reflowing during printing. For printing large objects, you can multiple-point multiplexing. Specifically, this fast, one-way continuous ink flow can use reactable materials such as silicones, polyurethanes, epoxy resins or bio-inks to precisely construct complex parts.
Skylar-Scott’s team demonstrated MM3D technology by printing Miura origami structures. The structure is made up of rigid “panel” sections connected to the highly flexible “hinged” section. Unlike traditional methods, which require a lot of time and multi-layerprocessing, “the MM3D printhead prints the entire object step by squeezing out two alternating epoxy inks in succession using eight nozzles, and printing two consecutive orders of magnitude after one step. “
The researchers also used MM3D to print walking “flexible, foot-shaped robots made up of robotic arms and soft elastomers.” Impressively, “the robot can move at nearly half an inch per second, carrying eight times its own weight, and can be connected to other robots to carry a heavier load.” “
Currently, MM3D can only print periodic, patterned objects. But Wyss’ team believes that with further development and research, the team will allow the process to create even more complex structures in one step. Overall, Wyss founding director Donald Ingber sees the potential of manufacturing technology and notes that “this new development is expected to significantly improve the pace of innovation in this exciting area.” “
The study was published in the journal Nature.