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Smart Ink Adds New Dimensions to 3D Printing

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A three-dimensionally printed structure before (left) and after drying.

Researchers at Dartmouth College have developed a smart ink that can be used to print three-dimensional structures that can change shape and color.

Credit: Chenfeng Ke

Dartmouth College researchers have developed a smart ink that turns three-dimensionally (3D)-printed structures into objects that change shape and color, which could add even greater functionality to 3D printing and pave the way for a new generation of printed materials.

The ink brings functional molecules to the 3D printing world, letting users print smart objects for a variety of uses, says Dartmouth professor Chenfeng Ke.

The researchers created the smart ink using a polymer-based "vehicle" that integrates intelligent molecular systems into printing gel.

The new ink enables designers to retain specific molecular alignments and functions in a material and to convert those structures for use in 3D printing.

One key feature of the new process is the ability to reduce the size of an object after printing while preserving functional features and increasing resolution. This means inexpensive printers can print high-resolution objects once only possible with much more sophisticated systems.

From Dartmouth College
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