Scientists create 4D printer for smart materials

Inspenet, March 14, 2023

Spanish scientists from the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) have created a 4D printer for intelligent materials with magnetic and electromechanical properties, which will have applications in the biomedical field.

In addition to 3D printing, this machine allows you to control an extra function: programming the response of the material so that it can change its shape when a magnetic field is applied or to change its electrical properties when it is deformed. This opens the door to the design of soft robots or smart sensors and substrates that transmit signals to different cellular systems, among other applications.

This line of research focuses on the development of soft multifunctional structures, made up of materials with mechanical properties that mimic biological tissues, including everything from the skin to the brain.

“This technology allows us not only to control the way in which we print the structures in three dimensions, but also allows us to provide it with the ability to change its properties or geometry in response to the action of external magnetic fields, or modifying its electrical properties by deform”, explains one of the researchers, Daniel García González, head of the ERC 4D-BIOMAP project (GA 947723) and professor in the Department of Mechanics of Continuums and Theory of Structures at UC3M.

This type of printing is complex since the material to be printed transitions from liquid to solid during the printing process. For this reason, it is necessary to understand the dynamics in order to be able to adapt the printing process, in such a way that a sufficiently liquid material is obtained when it flows through the nozzle of the printer, but, at the same time, solid enough so that it can maintain a specific way.

For this, they have developed an interdisciplinary methodology that combines theoretical and experimental techniques that has allowed them to build the printing device from scratch, both the physical part of the device (the hardware) and the computer programs that allow it to be controlled (the software).

The researchers have also developed a new concept of material that is capable of repairing itself autonomously and without the need for external action. “This material consists of a soft polymeric matrix that includes magnetic particles with a remnant field. For practical purposes, it is as if we had small magnets distributed in the material, so that, if it breaks, when the resulting parts are brought closer together, they will come back together, recovering their structural integrity”, says Daniel García González.

The most recent study in this line of research and development is entitled “Computationally Guided DIW Technology to Enable Robust Printing of Inks with Evolving Rheological Properties”. And it has been published in the academic journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

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Photo : UC3M

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