Author: Ӎ. Ní Sídach
Researchers from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) have published a paper detailing a new approach to 3D printing using microfluidics, led by chemical engineering assistant professor Jiandi Wan.
The new technique uses a droplet-based, multi-phase microfluidic system to efficiently 3D print finely-tuned flexible materials. It allows the user to manipulate the extruded ink composition and properties in real-time, enabling the fabrication of diverse and functional structures with varied compositions and properties. The researchers see potential applications for the technology in soft robotics, tissue engineering and wearable technology.
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In the 1960s Roy Amara, a Stanford computer scientist, observed that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”.
The progress of 3D printing might be a case in point. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a fast-evolving technology with the, as yet, unrealized potential to decentralize production. It could provide the answer to the world’s addiction to supply chains — by getting rid of them.
In this video, you’ll see the Vulcan II mobile, large-scale 3D printer extruding ICON’s proprietary mixture dubbed, “Lavacrete.” This project illustrates three homes being 3D printed simultaneously for a total print of 1,200 sq ft (111.48 m²).