Technique uses humidity to make 3D printing faster, more efficient

Researchers have devised a technique that uses humidity to make 3D printing faster and more efficient for small and complex structures.

By University of Missouri April 11, 2023
Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Additive manufacturing insights

  • Researchers from University of Missouri are using humidity to make 3D printing faster and more efficient for small, complex structures.
  • While the researchers are targeting biomedical devices with this technique, the concept can help make additive manufacturing more efficient for other products, as well.

A Mizzou Engineering team has devised a new technique that uses humidity to make 3D printing faster and more efficient when fabricating small, complex structures.

Jian Lin, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and his team are using a process to dissolve a polymer in an organic solvent. When the solution is exposed to humidity, the solvent rapidly diffuses and dissolves, leading to a quick solidification of the polymer. Because of the speed, the structure can stand on its own without the need to print supporting pieces.

“The problem with other methods is that they are very slow,” said Jacob Search, who earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Mizzou and is now pursuing a PhD at Duke University. “And quicker methods are not able to achieve more complex structures. This method balances that. It speeds up the printing speed while still maintaining the complexity.”

While the technique has the potential to be used with different types of ink to quickly print a variety of multifunctional 3D structures, Search and collaborator Alireza Mahjoubnia say it’s a good fit for biomedical applications.

“The polymer we’re using in this study is already FDA approved, so the more we work on processing this material, the closer we are to clinical trial,” said Mahjoubnia, a PhD student in mechanical engineering.

The method could be used to quickly print customized structures that can induce specific cell behavior and promote tissue regeneration.

“There’s more work to be done before we attach cells, but theoretically, you can print the structure using our method and do some post-processing to add the biological characteristics you want,” Search said.