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Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a new process for the 3D printing of nanoscale metal structures. The process could be used to make tiny logic circuits, lightweight aircraft components, and more.
It might seem surprising, but some of the biggest advancements for large-scale 3D printing applications like aircraft and automobile parts are actually taking place on a tiny, tiny scale. That’s because 3D printing complex structures at a small scale can result in parts that are much stronger across their entire structure.
Study - Caltech - Printing - Process - Metal
A study at Caltech has resulted in a new 3D printing process for creating complex nanoscale metal structures. The process allows researchers to synthesize organic scaffolds that contain metal ions, letting them print metallic structures that are “orders of magnitude smaller than previously possible.”
Although its end-use is for manmade systems like aircraft and computers, the new nanoscale 3D printing process works using organic ligands—molecules that bond to metal—to make a polymer-based resin. This resin acts as a kind of scaffold for metals.
Study - Caltech - Team - Molecules - Nickel
In the study, the Caltech team bonded these organic molecules with nickel to create a syrupy liquid, which could then be hit with a two-photon laser to create stronger chemical bonds between the organic molecules. This laser zapping stage can be used to create a 3D part, just like other laser-based additive manufacturing methods.
When the bonds become stronger, the structure hardens, and the nickel atoms—themselves...
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