LLNL’s innovative 3D Printing process for wearable devices

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Meta Platforms, a prominent multinational technology company, that also owns Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp, partnered with LLNL in this ambitious endeavor. The researchers have harnessed the power of light to create seamless variations in stiffness, addressing a significant challenge in creating more lifelike “wearables.”

Meta Platforms’ engineer, Sijia Huang, who is also the study’s lead author, explains, “Engineers make a part that is stiff and another part that is soft, and then manually assemble them, so we have a very sharp interface that compromises the mechanical property.” The LLNL-Meta collaboration sought to overcome this challenge by designing continuous mechanical gradients, transitioning from soft to stiff, within a single resin system. The key to this process lies in manipulating the intensity of light applied to a photopolymer resin through Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D printing, a layer-by-layer technique that enables the rapid production of parts by projecting light into a liquid resin. This modulation of light intensity governs the properties of the deposited plastic material. Lower light intensity yields a softer material, while higher light intensity results in a stiffer material.

A notable demonstration of this material’s capabilities was the creation of a 3D-printed wearable device that can be worn on a finger and “translate” text messages on a cell phone into braille by strategically filling the device with air at specific points.

This groundbreaking 3D printing process holds immense potential for applications beyond wearables. Huang envisions its use in crafting energy-absorbing materials, soft robotics, and various other wearable electronic devices.

Meta and LLNL have pioneered a technology that not only expands the horizons of wearables but also showcases the power of collaboration between research institutions and innovative tech giants.

LLNL Creates 3-D Printing Process for Wearable Devices.

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