Scientists Developing One All-Purpose Ink & 3D Printing Process

(Chemistry World) Scientists have developed a Universal approach for printing materials with easy-to-modify surfaces to eliminate the need for multiple 3D printers.

3D printing is a potentially powerful manufacturing tool. However, numerous printing technologies have had to be developed as several 3D printers with single-purpose inks are often needed for different uses, increasing fabrication costs. Finding one all-purpose ink or 3D printing process has proven elusive and nearly impossible, until now.

Xiaolong Wang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Lanzhou and co-workers in Jun Yang’s group at the University of Western Ontario in Canada have developed a versatile 3D printing technique where a bromine-containing acrylate is added to a 3D printing resin. The acrylate acts as an initiator to allow polymer brushes to grow on the printed surface. Printed 3D structures are then grafted into useful materials by surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerisation. Dr. Wang Xiaolong at the Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and co-workers in Jun Yang’s group at the University of Western Ontario in Canada have developed an initiator integrated 3D printing approach (i3DP) to enable post-printing surface modifications for various applications.Their approach makes the 3D printing more practical especially where surface properties are critical, such as biomaterials, biomedical supplies, and microfluidics.

This method is of great value for practical applications of 3D printed objects,’ comments Daniel Citterio, who designs printed chemical sensing devices at Keio University in Japan. He anticipates Wang’s approach will widen the use of such printed materials.

At the moment, this new technique is only suitable for photopolymerisation-based 3D printing, but Wang and colleagues are already working on printing smaller structures with greater accuracy. ‘In terms of developing an ideal one-for-all approach,’ he says, ‘there are still many possibilities to explore.’