Print metal as simply resin or plastic, it is the challenge of Chinese researchers in cryogenics. Rather than having recourse to powerful lasers or electron beams to merge metal powder, they propose simply to make molten metal in order to print objects in the traditional way by inkjet. Researchers use a coolant to transform metal into liquid and inject it into the print heads. If the first tests seems rather coarse, process is promising and perhaps could democratize the metal printing.
The secret: control the size and speed of the drops of liquid metal
Lei Wang and Jing Liu, two researchers in cryogenics to the Academy of sciences and the school of Medicine of Beijing come to present the first results of their work. They managed to print a few small objects of pennies with their process. It relates only to metals and alloys whose melting temperature is relatively low: a little above room temperature up to 300 degrees maximum. Cannot use this proceed to print parts of aircraft titanium or elements of steel structures. For their first tests, researchers have used alloys of bismuth, indium, Tin, and zinc and have used various cooling devices to solidify the liquid metal drops projected by the printer on the object. According to injection syringes, they managed to drops sizes average 35 micrometers, 65, 90 and 100-170 microns. They managed to control both the size of the drops of metal and their speed of ejection, clearing new avenues for builders of 3D printers.
A complementary approach to the current 3D SLS print
Difficult to assess the impact that will have this approach and especially what alloys, including nanoparticle, will be able to be developed for this type of printing. For the time being, researchers believe that their method is much faster than current processes. It is especially affordable and much less energy than traditional metal printing consumer. However, cryogenics applies to metals with low melting temperature, process cannot therefore replace it the laser sintering SLS in many cases, but for prototyping, or completion of electrical equipment, for example, the ability to print at the same time the metal and plastic can be extremely interesting to do many industrialist who will be able to produce a single functional equipment takingregardless of the mounting. Printing 3D liquid metal, a track to follow.
Translation : Bing Translator
Source : “Liquid phase 3D printing for quickly manufacturing conductive metal objects with low melting point alloy ink”, Science China Technological Sciences, September 2014