Move over plastics: Scientists demonstrate 3D printing with liquid metal

3D printers may soon have a new material with which to print that’s stronger than the plastics they typically use, able to conduct electricity and, well, cool: liquid metal.

A team of scientists at North Carolina State University have demonstrated a technique that could be used to print objects made with the material, an alloy of gallium and indium that is liquid at room temperature. Using a syringe filled with liquid metal, the team “printed” wires and small, free-standing structures composed of balls of the material. When exposed to air, liquid metal forms a thin but hard shell that can support the still liquid interior.

Don’t get your hopes up too high: You won’t be printing the “liquid metal” T-1000 robot from “Terminator 2” anytime soon. But the material could be used in the not-too-distant future in semiconductors and flexible electronics. According to the scientists, their syringe technique is directly translatable to 3D printing.

But it will come at a cost: The new material is about 100 times more expensive than the plastics typically used in 3D printing, according to New Scientist.


Image courtesy of Michael Dickey/North Carolina State University.


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