It is back in news yet again…correct, it is 3D printing. Without any doubt, advances in the 3D printing technology have helped a great deal in a number of fields the world over. However, the kind of potential it packs leaves one with a number of questions about the 3D printed material itself. For instance, what strength does it possess or how much weight can the material possibly resist? Fortunately, Lawrence Livermore and MIT researchers collaborated to form a fresh class of 3D printed material by the name micro-architected metamaterials to find answers to those questions. It made for some interesting results.
Although stiffer, the micro-architected metamaterials are said to have the density equal to that of aerogels. These new materials are actually strong enough to bear 160,000 times their own weight. It does not take rocket science to guess how useful these might prove with carrying loads. The team of researchers was mindful of this prospect and decided to utilize this. Microscopic lattice molds were first designed with the help of a 3D printer along with photosensitive feedstock. These were then coated with metal that was up to 500 nanometers thick. Removal of the lattice material would leave an ultralight metal possessing great strength to weight ratio.
Ceramics and polymers can also be used in this process. Infact, ceramics have been used to create a 3D printed material that was nearly as lightweight as aerogel but it was a whole lot stiffer than it. The strength of this material was much greater than aerogel could ever achieve; nearly 100 times greater! Ofcourse, that makes these kinds of materials ideal as far as the benefits in the aerospace industry are concerned. Do not be surprised if they end up using them on drones or robots since the project is financially backed by DARPA. The MIT website contains a lot more detail regarding the new and improved 3D printed micro-architected metamaterials. Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.