A new rotational, multi-material 3D printing process has been developed by a team of researchers across different institutes at Harvard University.
The team was looking to mimic the helical structures that constitute biological systems, and create a method of 3D printing that would allow for the design of structures that are able to contract.
The team consisted of researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
In the human body, proteins assemble into helical filaments to allow for the contraction of muscles. Plants can change shape due to the helical cellulose fibres within the cell walls. Materials in nature are rarely straight.
The team of researchers developed a 3D printing process to mimic this and used it to design and fabricate artificial muscles and springy lattices for use in soft robotics and structural applications.
“Our additive manufacturing platform opens new avenues to generating multifunctional architected matter in bio-inspired motifs,” said Jennifer Lewis, the Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS and senior author of the study, and Core Faculty member of the Wyss Institute.
The printhead created by the team consists of four cartridges, each containing different materials. The inks are fed through a nozzle that allows multiple materials to be printed at once. The nozzle rotates which makes the extruded inks form the filament with embedded helical features.