Next-Gen 4D printer unleashes magnetic smart materials

“This material consists of a soft polymer matrix embedded with magnetic particles with a remanent field."
Nergis Firtina
A new smart printer enables the manufacture of soft multifunctional materials by continuously adapting extrusion parameters
A new smart printer enables the manufacture of soft multifunctional materials by continuously adapting extrusion parameters

UC3M 

Software and hardware for a 4D printer with applications in the biomedical industry have been developed by researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). The novel printer is allowing for controlling extra functions, such as programming the material’s response so that shape-changing occurs under an external magnetic field or changes in its electric properties develop under mechanical deformation.

This makes it possible to create soft robotics, intelligent sensors, and substrates that send signals to various cellular systems, among other things, claims Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) in the press release.

This research area focuses on the creation of soft multifunctional structures made of materials whose mechanical characteristics closely resemble those of biological tissues like the skin and the brain. Moreover, they can change their appearance or characteristics in response to outside stimuli like magnetic fields or electric currents.

Soft multifunctional materials may now be produced using a new smart printer that continuously adjusts the extrusion conditions. It prints conductive and magneto-active materials with mechanical characteristics that resemble biological tissues by combining experimental and computational techniques.

A novel methodology for 4D printing

The team of researchers had made numerous advancements in the design and manufacture of these structures, but they were quite limited in terms of shape design and programming of intelligent responses. They were able to create a revolutionary 4D printing approach thanks to the work reported in their most recent paper, which was published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

Another recent article in the journal Composites Part B: Engineering reports that the researchers have also created a new material concept that has the ability to mend itself without the help of outside intervention.

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“This material consists of a soft polymer matrix embedded with magnetic particles with a remanent 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 together again, they will physically join, recovering their structural integrity”, says Daniel García González.

Since the substance to be extruded changes from a liquid to a solid throughout the printing process, this sort of printing is complicated. So, it is essential to comprehend material dynamics in order to modify the manufacturing process and produce a material that is enough liquid to pass through the printer nozzle yet solid enough to hold a particular shape.

In order to achieve this, they have created an interdisciplinary process that combines theoretical and experimental techniques and enables them to completely build the printing device, including the hardware and the computer programs that enable it to be operated.

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