3D Printing NSF’s quest for multi-material innovation.

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The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) is on a mission to discover groundbreaking materials that will shape the future. In a collaborative effort, researchers from Iowa State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara are working on an ambitious project that could redefine 3D printing. Their goal is to transform Digital Light Processing (DLP), a 3D printing method that uses light rather than heat to cure liquid resin, into a platform for multi-material printing. This breakthrough has the potential to produce a single material with dual properties, a game-changer in the world of 3D printing. Driven by expertise in materials chemistry, computational science, machine learning, and materials characterization, the researchers are exploring resins that solidify differently under various wavelengths of light, allowing the creation of products with varying degrees of rigidity and flexibility.

This endeavor is part of a broader NSF initiative, which encompasses 37 projects, investing a total of $72.5 million over four years. The aim is to innovate materials that address pressing societal challenges and cultivate a skilled scientific and engineering workforce. The NSF, in collaboration with federal agencies and industrial partners, is at the forefront of the Materials Genome Initiative, focused on accelerating materials invention and utilization. Sethuraman Panchanathan, the NSF’s director, believes that this multi-disciplinary approach is revolutionizing the development of materials that can address urgent national needs. Iowa State researchers received $800,000 from the program to explore the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to develop resins with versatile properties. Their experience with these cutting-edge tools positions them to evaluate options efficiently.

Meanwhile, UCSB researchers, led by Professor Michael Chabinyc, are concentrating on polymer chemistry. The combined efforts of Iowa State and UCSB are directed toward the development of specialized biomedical platforms. These platforms feature structured surfaces with varying levels of stiffness, ideal for promoting and guiding the growth of cell cultures. Current practices involve growing cultures on either rigid glass or soft silicon polymer. However, this doesn’t mirror the complexity of the human body, which comprises both hard and soft tissues. Varied stiffness levels can significantly enhance cell growth, opening doors to innovative medical applications. Apart from experimenting with and testing new materials, the researchers are developing a “digital twin” system. This system enables simulations and predictions of how different resins will react to various light wavelengths and exposure. Machine learning tools reduce the laborious work involved in selecting suitable resins for study. Additionally, reinforcement learning ensures that advancements in experiments and theories contribute to the overall progress of multi-material, light-based 3D printing.

The combined power of computational science promises to support the Iowa State-UCSB team in realizing the Materials Genome Initiative’s vision. They aim to expedite the discovery, production, and deployment of advanced materials at a fraction of the traditional cost. This revolutionary approach to 3D printing and materials science holds the potential to revolutionize industries and address vital societal challenges.

Posted 12 hours ago. Researchers developing ‘revolutionary’ multi-material for light-based 3D printing.

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