Researchers develop liquid metal 3D printer that works at room temp

By on July 9, 2013, 7:00 PM

I hate to break it to you, but that fancy 3D printer you just plopped down a lot of money for is already extinct. That’s because researchers at North Carolina State University have come up with a 3D-printing method using liquid metal at room temperature. It’s something they have been working on for years as trying to build a structure using liquid metal at room temperature without having it turn into a puddle proved difficult.

The process uses a tiny syringe to apply small drops of liquid metal composed of gallium and indium together. It’s a thin oxide skin that is able to hold it all together and overcome the effects of gravity and the large surface tension of the liquid.

Using this method, they are able to build all sorts of things but perhaps most interesting of them all is creating wire. Applying a pressurized air pulse through the syringe makes an instant wire. Conversely, applying vacuum detaches the wire.

In a discussion of the project on Reddit, one of the researchers noted that the cool thing about it (from a scientific standpoint) is that liquids don’t behave this way normally. The wires created using the process should simply break up into a rain of droplets while the structures should just melt into a puddle.

The technology could lead to some interesting uses in the electronics field. For example, 3D-printed wire could be used as headphone wires where attributes like flexibility and the ability to self-heal could be paramount.

User Comments: 8

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JC713 JC713 said:

This is awesome...

2 people like this | spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

3D printed guns are going to be so awesome!

1 person liked this | Matt12345170 Matt12345170 said:

If you watched the video, I cant see this replacing standard 3D printers, but perhaps they can co-exist. The metal doesn't look like it would be able to do fine work (or create anything useful) , maybe in a mould, which is where the standard 3D printer could come in handy.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The metal doesn't look like it would be able to do fine work (or create anything useful)
Especially if the tensile strength is weak.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

Neat proof of concept.

1 person liked this | gibbstar gibbstar said:

It's the T-1000!!!!

sambob said: figured out how to solder electronics for Fifty times the cost and take 30 times longer than the way we do It now.

While kinda Interesting, for now It seems more of a process In search of a use.

taimuraly taimuraly said:

I was worried about the roach, good to know it was not killed only to half artificial antennae placed on it.

Also watching the video I felt I was in the build mode for The Sims =P

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