A chemical engineering associate professor, Jiandi Wan from the University of California, Davis spearheaded a fresh droplet-based additive manufacturing technology utilizing microfluidics.
This microfluidic strategy allowed the study team to effectively print finely-tuned adjustable materials with possible apps in soft robotics, wearable technology, and tissue engineering.
The study has been posted in PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
Conventional material extrusion additive manufacturing technology utilizes a spout. The nozzles enable the depositing of material or inclusion on top of the prior coat repeatedly until the completion of the product.
While this technique is affordable and efficient, it makes it difficult to print structures created over a single material. Also, getting the perfect softness amount might be a challenging task.
Wan’s team realized that this nozzle was comparable to the glass capillary microfluidic machines they had been researching. This involve several nozzles put in each other and discovered they had a fresh use for the technology.
“Most extrusion-based 3D printers use very simple nozzles and since we had already developed these glass microfluidics, we thought, ‘why not apply it to 3D printing?” explains Wan.
The device by Wan utilizes a multi-phase drip mechanism to encapsulate droplets. The droplets are of an aqueous polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEGDA) mixture in a standard silicon-based organic polymer known as polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). The PDMS moves just about a dripper that makes small PEGDA droplets that it uniformly places into the PDMS. This is while all materials move onto the formation that is being printed.
After that, the resulting formation appears like a Pac-Man maze with tiny dots of PEGDA droplets Bordered by PDMS. Once the PEGDA spreads out of the drips, it interrupts the polymerization procedure of PDMS. It softens the material chemically and thus making the formation more stretchable.
“You can also encapsulate other chemicals in the droplets to make the overall matrix much softer or harder,” added Wan.
Also, Wan and his crew showed the droplet-based additive manufacturing technology might be utilized to make flexible permeable constructs and builds with encapsulated polymer elements and metal droplets. Apart from that, the formation flexibility may be easily harmonized by changing the size of the droplet and movement rate. This offers the exerts a variety of choices to actually design the material formation and modify flexibility to suit their needs in a manner