Putting Some Bounce Into 3D Printing

A new era of "bounce" is upon us, as MIT researchers have come up with a way to program parts of 3D printed objects to meet specified levels of stiffness or elasticity based on the task. 

 

3D printing has been on a tear as of late, with new advancements in areas such as materials and printing processes happening in near rapid-fire succession.

In a move that has interesting ramifications for industrial robots, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has advanced its work in 3D printing, devising a method for producing soft materials that creates a shock absorber of sorts that could be applied to numerous applications. According to an article in Popular Science, the researchers have cooked up a way to combine three different materials to make objects more or less bouncy. Specifically, they’ve mixed a solid, a liquid, and a rubbery substance called TangoBlack+ in different proportions to come up with a shock-absorbing material concoction that can be dialed up or down in the amount of elasticity depending on the application.

The exact recipe, managed by a technique that programs different regions of an object, could have important implications for manufacturing objects such as helmets, delivery drones, and shock-resistant shoe soles, the researchers told Popular Science. Robert MacCurdy, one of the study’s lead authors, used the example of a helmet to explain how the 3D printing process could yield certain parts suitable for comfort while other sections were made with shock-absorbing materials to guard against impact.

Count this as another step in fulfilling 3D printing’s promise as a true manufacturing alternative.

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