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New 3D printer tech inches closer to holy grail of multi-material printing

(Image credit: Pexels)

A fresh innovation looks set to allow for much speedier 3D printing with multiple materials.

As you may well be aware, 3D printers which can work with multiple materials already exist in a number of forms (including dual-extrusion models among others), but the problem is that whatever method is used to switch between materials is currently slower than ideal.

That’s where a new multi-material multi-nozzle 3D (MM3D) printhead comes into play, as Nature.com reports. It is capable of printing with up to eight different materials from one nozzle – and there can be multiple nozzles – plus it can switch very quickly between those materials.

All of which makes for a much more seamless and faster method of multiple-material 3D printing, while still maintaining a suitably fine level of detail.

Superfast switching

Or as the creators of the invention put it: “Our MM3D printheads exploit the diode-like behaviour that arises when multiple viscoelastic materials converge at a junction to enable seamless, high-frequency switching between up to eight different materials to create voxels with a volume approaching that of the nozzle diameter cubed.”

As you can see in the video above, the folks behind the printhead have already used it to create a flexible origami sheet, and a ‘millipede-like soft robot’ capable of movement, the latter of which was printed using multiple epoxy and silicone elastomer inks of differing levels of stiffness.

The eventual hope is that this printhead technology will be able to swiftly create flexible electronics or the likes of rechargeable batteries.