Rutgers University engineers have developed a time-saving and efficient method for painting complex 3D printed objects.
Unlike conventional sprays and brushes that can’t reach all nooks and crannies in complex 3D printed objects, the new technique coats any exposed surface and fosters rapid prototyping.
This should come in handy while painting lightweight frames for aircraft and biomedical stents.
“Our technique is a more efficient way to coat not only conventional objects, but even hydrogel soft robots, and our coatings are robust enough to survive complete immersion in water and repeated swelling and de-swelling by humidity,” says senior author of the study and assistant professor Jonathan P. Singer.
According to the scientists, the new technology creates a fine spray of droplets by applying a voltage to fluid flowing through a nozzle.
This technique – Electrospray Deposition (ESD) – has been widely used for analytical chemistry.
But in recent decades, it has also been used in lab-scale demonstrations of coatings that deliver vaccines, light-absorbing layers of solar cells and fluorescent quantum dots (tiny particles) for LED displays.
Using this approach, the Rutgers team is building an accessory for 3D printers that will for the first time allow automated coating of 3D printed parts with functional, protective or aesthetic layers of paint.
Their technique features much thinner and better-targeted paint application, using significantly fewer materials than traditional methods.
Thanks to this method, engineers can use cutting-edge materials, such as nanoparticles and bioactive ingredients, that would otherwise be too costly in paints.
The engineers are next hoping to create surfaces that can change their properties or trigger chemical reactions to create paints that can sense their environment and report stimuli to onboard electronics.
Image and content: Rutgers University–New Brunswick