UC San Diego scientists have developed a new expandable resin that can be used to print large objects with an inexpensive, commercially available 3D printer.
3D printing comes with its own limitations especially when one must create large objects. Printed objects must be smaller than the machine making them.
On the other hand, huge machines are impractical for printing large parts because they take up too much space and require excessive time to print.
This is why the UC San Diego team comprising of David Wirth, Jonathan Pokorski and colleagues believes their new material could be a real game changer in fields like architecture, aerospace and biomedicine.
The scientists tested many different resin formulations to find one that allowed them to print an object that, when exposed to heat, expanded to a larger size.
They then used the formulation to 3D print a hollow, latticed sphere.
Heating the sphere in an oven caused a volatile component of the resin to bubble out as a gas. This created a porous, polystyrene foam-like material that was up to 40 times larger in volume than the original printed object.
With this method, the team also 3D printed many other shapes, including a boat, which could carry about 20 times more weight at its expanded size, and a wind turbine that could produce a small amount of electricity at its larger size.
According to the scientists, though the new material isn’t as strong as polystyrene foam, it could someday be used for cushioning, airfoils, buoyancy aids or even expandable habitats for astronauts.
Image and content: UC San Diego-American Chemical Society