A new metallic gel could lead to metal 3D printers that could create complete objects at room temperature. Not only is it a complete metal object, but it is also highly conductive, meaning you can use it for electronic metal 3D printing, meaning your smartphone might mostly one day be printed using this metallic gel.
According to NC State University, The paper, ‘Metallic Gels for Conductive 3D and 4D Printing,’ is published in the journal Matter. First author of the paper is Ruizhe Xing, a former visiting scholar at NC State who is affiliated with Northwestern Polytechnical University and Tianjin University. Co-corresponding authors of the paper are Dickey, at NC State, and Renliang Huang and Wei Qi of Tianjin University. The paper was co-authored by Jiayi Yang, a former visiting scholar at NC State, now at Xi’an University of Science and Technology; Dongguang Zhang, a former visiting scholar at NC State, now at Taiyuan University of Technology; Wei Gong, a former visiting scholar at NC State, now at the National University of Singapore; Taylor Neumann, a former Ph.D. student at NC State; Meixiang Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State; and Jie Kong of Northwestern Polytechnical University.
Michael Dickey, the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University says of the findings, “3D printing has revolutionized manufacturing, but we’re not aware of previous technologies that allowed you to print 3D metal objects at room temperature in a single step. This opens the door to manufacturing a wide range of electronic components and devices.”
He explained the importance of the use of a metallic gel comprised of liquid metal and copper particles that stick to each other to form a metallic gel network, “This gel-like consistency is important, because it means you have a fairly uniform distribution of copper particles throughout the material. This does two things. First, it means the network of particles connect to form electrical pathways. And second, it means that the copper particles aren’t settling out of solution and clogging the printer.”
So far, the gel is still in testing mode, but the researchers hope to work with the 3D printing industry to develop applications for the discovery, which could lead to new ways of designing electronic components so they can be more completely manufactured in one printing, with little to no post-assembly required.