Maryland University (UMD) scientists have developed a new morphing nozzle for both 3D and 4D printing.
This novel shape-changing nozzle could help dish out fiber-filled 3D printed composites that offer enhanced part strength and electrical conductivity.
“When 3D printing with the morphing nozzle, the power lies on their side actuators, which can be inflated like a balloon to change the shape of the nozzle, and in turn, the orientations of the fibers,” says assistant professor Ryan Sochol.
Such a nozzle could prove beneficial for emerging 4D printing applications, notes study co-author and UMD professor David Bigio.
“4D printing refers to the relatively new concept of 3D printing objects that can reshape or transform depending on their environment.”
“In our work, we looked at how printed parts swelled when submerged in water, and specifically, if we could alter that swelling behavior using our morphing nozzle.”
4D printing is dependent on materials that offer both ‘anisotropic’ expansion (swelling more in one direction than another) and ‘isotropic’ expansion (swelling identically in all directions).
Scientists have had to previously print with multiple, different materials in order to accommodate this dual switching in printing.
“What was exciting was discovering that we could cause a single printed material to transition between anisotropic and isotropic swelling just by changing the nozzle’s shape during the 3D printing process,” says study lead author Connor Armstrong.
“Importantly, the nozzle’s ability to morph and to even up the score in terms of swelling properties is not limited to 4D printing,” adds study co-author Noah Todd.
“Our approach could be applied for 3D printing many other composite materials to customize their elastic, thermal, magnetic or electrical properties for example.”
In order to build the morphing nozzle itself, the UMD team actually turned to a different 3D printing technology called PolyJet Printing.
This multi-material inkjet-based approach allowed the researchers to 3D print their nozzle with flexible materials for the inflatable side actuators and the shape-changing central channel, and rigid materials for the outer casing and the access ports.
Image and content: University of Maryland