Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Printing


Recent research using 3D printing to create active structures has added an exciting new dimension to 3D printing technology. After being printed, these active, often composite, materials can change their shape over time; this has been termed as 4D printing. In this paper, we demonstrate the design and manufacture of active composites that can take multiple shapes, depending on the environmental temperature. This is achieved by 3D printing layered composite structures with multiple families of shape memory polymer (SMP) fibers - digital SMPs - with different glass transition temperatures (Tg) to control the transformation of the structure. After a simple single-step thermomechanical programming process, the fiber families can be sequentially activated to bend when the temperature is increased. By tuning the volume fraction of the fibers, bending deformation can be controlled. We develop a theoretical model to predict the deformation behavior for better understanding the phenomena and aiding the design. We also design and print several flat 2D structures that can be programmed to fold and open themselves when subjected to heat. With the advantages of an easy fabrication process and the controllable multi-shape memory effect, the printed SMP composites have a great potential in 4D printing applications.

Concepts: Temperature, Thermodynamics, Printing, Paper, Shape memory alloy, Polymers, Printmaking, Shape memory polymer


A challenge for tissue engineering is producing three-dimensional (3D), vascularized cellular constructs of clinically relevant size, shape and structural integrity. We present an integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP) that can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue constructs of any shape. Mechanical stability is achieved by printing cell-laden hydrogels together with biodegradable polymers in integrated patterns and anchored on sacrificial hydrogels. The correct shape of the tissue construct is achieved by representing clinical imaging data as a computer model of the anatomical defect and translating the model into a program that controls the motions of the printer nozzles, which dispense cells to discrete locations. The incorporation of microchannels into the tissue constructs facilitates diffusion of nutrients to printed cells, thereby overcoming the diffusion limit of 100-200 μm for cell survival in engineered tissues. We demonstrate capabilities of the ITOP by fabricating mandible and calvarial bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle. Future development of the ITOP is being directed to the production of tissues for human applications and to the building of more complex tissues and solid organs.

Concepts: Bone, Extracellular matrix, Organ, Engineering, Tissues, Computer graphics, Human anatomy, Printing


Additive manufacturing processes such as 3D printing use time-consuming, stepwise layer-by-layer approaches to object fabrication. We demonstrate the continuous generation of monolithic polymeric parts up to tens of centimeters in size with feature resolution below 100 micrometers. Continuous liquid interface production is achieved with an oxygen-permeable window below the ultraviolet image projection plane, which creates a “dead zone” (persistent liquid interface) where photopolymerization is inhibited between the window and the polymerizing part. We delineate critical control parameters and show that complex solid parts can be drawn out of the resin at rates of hundreds of millimeters per hour. These print speeds allow parts to be produced in minutes instead of hours.

Concepts: Orders of magnitude, Object, Printing, Manufacturing, Rapid manufacturing, Units of length


The ability to pattern planar and freestanding 3D metallic architectures at the microscale would enable myriad applications, including flexible electronics, displays, sensors, and electrically small antennas. A 3D printing method is introduced that combines direct ink writing with a focused laser that locally anneals printed metallic features “on-the-fly.” To optimize the nozzle-to-laser separation distance, the heat transfer along the printed silver wire is modeled as a function of printing speed, laser intensity, and pulse duration. Laser-assisted direct ink writing is used to pattern highly conductive, ductile metallic interconnects, springs, and freestanding spiral architectures on flexible and rigid substrates.

Concepts: Electricity, Heat, Aluminium, Metal, Copper, Silver, Printing, Inkjet printer


We have investigated whether inkjet printing technology can be extended to print cells of the adult rat central nervous system (CNS), retinal ganglion cells (RGC) and glia, and the effects on survival and growth of these cells in culture, which is an important step in the development of tissue grafts for regenerative medicine, and may aid in the cure of blindness. We observed that RGC and glia can be successfully printed using a piezoelectric printer. Whilst inkjet printing reduced the cell population due to sedimentation within the printing system, imaging of the printhead nozzle, which is the area where the cells experience the greatest shear stress and rate, confirmed that there was no evidence of destruction or even significant distortion of the cells during jet ejection and drop formation. Importantly, the viability of the cells was not affected by the printing process. When we cultured the same number of printed and non-printed RGC/glial cells, there was no significant difference in cell survival and RGC neurite outgrowth. In addition, use of a glial substrate significantly increased RGC neurite outgrowth, and this effect was retained when the cells had been printed. In conclusion, printing of RGC and glia using a piezoelectric printhead does not adversely affect viability and survival/growth of the cells in culture. Importantly, printed glial cells retain their growth-promoting properties when used as a substrate, opening new avenues for printed CNS grafts in regenerative medicine.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Myelin, Printing, Inkjet printer, Ink, Printmaking


Conventional three-dimensional (3D) printing techniques cannot produce structures of the size at which individual cells interact.

Concepts: Cell biology, Printing, Paper, Lithography, Printmaking, Old master print


The authors focus on the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer because the FDM 3D printer can print the utility resin material. It can print with low cost and therefore it is the most suitable for home 3D printer. The FDM 3D printer has the problem that it produces layer grooves on the surface of the 3D printed structure. Therefore the authors developed the 3D-Chemical Melting Finishing (3D-CMF) for removing layer grooves. In this method, a pen-style device is filled with a chemical able to dissolve the materials used for building 3D printed structures. By controlling the behavior of this pen-style device, the convex parts of layer grooves on the surface of the 3D printed structure are dissolved, which, in turn, fills the concave parts. In this study it proves the superiority of the 3D-CMF than conventional processing for the 3D printed structure. It proves utilizing the evaluation of the safety, selectively and stability. It confirms the improving of the 3D-CMF and it is confirmed utilizing the data of the surface roughness precision and the observation of the internal state and the evaluation of the mechanical characteristics.

Concepts: Materials science, Printing, Inkjet printer, 3D printing, Fused deposition modeling


Since its invention in ancient times, relief printing, commonly called flexography, has been used to mass-produce artifacts ranging from decorative graphics to printed media. Now, higher-resolution flexography is essential to manufacturing low-cost, large-area printed electronics. However, because of contact-mediated liquid instabilities and spreading, the resolution of flexographic printing using elastomeric stamps is limited to tens of micrometers. We introduce engineered nanoporous microstructures, comprising polymer-coated aligned carbon nanotubes (CNTs), as a next-generation stamp material. We design and engineer the highly porous microstructures to be wetted by colloidal inks and to transfer a thin layer to a target substrate upon brief contact. We demonstrate printing of diverse micrometer-scale patterns of a variety of functional nanoparticle inks, including Ag, ZnO, WO3, and CdSe/ZnS, onto both rigid and compliant substrates. The printed patterns have highly uniform nanoscale thickness (5 to 50 nm) and match the stamp features with high fidelity (edge roughness, ~0.2 μm). We derive conditions for uniform printing based on nanoscale contact mechanics, characterize printed Ag lines and transparent conductors, and achieve continuous printing at a speed of 0.2 m/s. The latter represents a combination of resolution and throughput that far surpasses industrial printing technologies.

Concepts: Liquid, Materials science, Printing, Printing press, Lithography, Printmaking, Flexography, Relief printing


The highest possible resolution for printed colour images is determined by the diffraction limit of visible light. To achieve this limit, individual colour elements (or pixels) with a pitch of 250 nm are required, translating into printed images at a resolution of ∼100,000 dots per inch (d.p.i.). However, methods for dispensing multiple colourants or fabricating structural colour through plasmonic structures have insufficient resolution and limited scalability. Here, we present a non-colourant method that achieves bright-field colour prints with resolutions up to the optical diffraction limit. Colour information is encoded in the dimensional parameters of metal nanostructures, so that tuning their plasmon resonance determines the colours of the individual pixels. Our colour-mapping strategy produces images with both sharp colour changes and fine tonal variations, is amenable to large-volume colour printing via nanoimprint lithography, and could be useful in making microimages for security, steganography, nanoscale optical filters and high-density spectrally encoded optical data storage.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Color, Plasmon, Printing, Lithography


Three-dimensional (3D) hierarchical materials are important to a wide range of emerging technological applications. We report a method to synthesize complex 3D microengineered materials, such as microlattices, with nearly fully dense truss elements with a minimum diameter of approximately 20 μm and having high aspect ratios (up to 20:1) without using any templating or supporting materials. By varying the postprocessing conditions, we have also introduced an additional control over the internal porosity of the truss elements to demonstrate a hierarchical porous structure with an overall void size and feature size control of over five orders of magnitudes in length scale. The method uses direct printing of nanoparticle dispersions using the Aerosol Jet technology in 3D space without templating or supporting materials followed by binder removal and sintering. In addition to 3D microlattices, we have also demonstrated directly printed stretchable interconnects, spirals, and pillars. This assembly method could be implemented by a variety of microdroplet generation methods for fast and large-scale fabrication of the hierarchical materials for applications in tissue engineering, ultralight or multifunctional materials, microfluidics, and micro-optoelectronics.

Concepts: Method acting, Ratio, Demonstration, Porosity, Printing, Aspect ratio, Ratios, Truss