MIT researchers Kripa Varanasi, Jolet de Ruiter, and Dan Soto have recently published a paper in Nature Physics detailing how they can control the adhesion of droplets on surfaces. By changing the thermal properties of a surface, the team has found that they can control if the droplet falling onto that surface will stick, bounce or peel away. By controlling when things stick and when they do not, they think that they may be able to help the surface coatings industry and 3D printing. They created a map which outlines what droplets do based on the drop itself, temperature and substrate effusivity (substrate means underlying layer and thermal effusivity is a number used to measure how good two materials are at the dissipation or storage of heat when they come into contact with each other).
The team first got onto this when they witnessed self-peeling droplets of metal detach from surfaces via a high-speed thermal camera. According to Soto:
“Since the degree to which droplets stick or don’t depend on a material’s thermal properties, it’s possible to tailor those properties based on the application. We can imagine scenarios where thermal properties can be adjusted in real time through electric or magnetic fields, allowing the stickiness of the surface to impacting droplets to be adjustable.”
The team can tweak the adhesion and deformation of the droplets as well. Another way they could do this would be to change the temperatures of the droplets and the surface relative to each other. This indeed could be very exciting for 3D printing. If you could adjust these droplets on the fly, then it is easy to think that you could make strides in surface adhesion in coatings or with new 3D printing technologies. Imagine a self-peeling metal 3D printing technology where support would only temporarily adhere to parts. Or imagine metal 3D printed parts with relatively easy to remove supports. One could also perhaps have a thin film 3D printing process whereby the surface would be continually altered to change the droplets that fell on it. Professor Varanasi has previously done research how to reduce contact time in bouncing droplets and heads the eponymous research group at MIT that looks specifically at surface coatings. He has some patents and lots of papers on surface wetting specifically.
The startup DropWise, which aims to produce energy efficient coatings for the power industry, is a product of Varanasi’s lab as well. For inkjet 3D printing technologies such as those developed by Digital Metal, Desktop Metal and HP, droplets and how they adhere could also be of paramount importance. Desktop Metal itself was founded by a softball team’s worth of MIT faculty that may be interested in what Professor Varanasi and company are doing. Powder Bed Fusion, Directed Energy Deposition, and other metal 3D printing technologies are also always going to be curious as to how droplets of metal react and can react. Cold Spray 3D printing applications and energy deposition processes where powder is sprayed or deposited would find this an interesting piece as well.
But could this perhaps point to an entirely new 3D printing technology? If one could change how drops adhered and do this in a very controlled way then you could, through a kind of “variable heat build plate,” control at each location what each droplet did. So a droplet dispensing system could then pass over a plate, and each of the droplets could be “designed” on the fly. This would be a fascinating thing indeed. I see a lot of potential in combining this with a coating application for 3D printed parts.
Professor Varanasi also has a patent on lubricating implants, and so he would understand the nature of lubricating implants. Many of these types of implants are currently 3D printed. To be able to use this in conjunction with the patented research to “lubricate on the fly” while manufacturing a part would be very interesting indeed. If one could design the droplets on the fly once they hit the powder bed or inkjet 3D printed part, then custom coatings and textures could be applied to it in these processes as well. This would most likely be a post-processing step which could then have a high degree of influence and individual variability as to what the final coating needed to be. One could even envision destressing parts in this way as well.
It is still very early for us to really have any idea if this research will impact our industry. It may very well not play a part at all. We should keep our eyes and ears open, however, to research affecting our industry, even in the broadest most oblique ways. Virtually anything that can be liquid and then become solid can be printed, anything that can be sintered can be printed and anything that can be bound together can be printed. This means that we have a huge number of different materials and interactions that could lead to new 3D printing processes. Will this be one of them?
Let us know what you think at 3DPrintBoard.com or in the comments below.[Source/Images: MIT]
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third party vendors.
You May Also Like
3D Printing News Briefs, May 25, 2023: Post-Processing, Osteoarthritis, & More
We’re starting out with business in 3D Printing News Briefs today, as Exentis appointed Eric Bert the President of Exentis Americas, and 3YOURMIND announced Alexandre Donnadieu has been promoted to...
Stratasys and Desktop Metal to Merge in $1.8 Billion Deal
After US stock markets closed on Wednesday, May 25, Bloomberg reported that “people familiar with the matter” told the website that 3D printing industry pioneer Stratasys (Nasdaq: SSYS) was “in...
Zeda Opens 3D Printing Facility in Cincinnati to Serve Regulated Industries
Today, California-based Zeda, Inc. announced that it has officially opened the doors to its new 75,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company, which rebranded to Zeda from PrinterPrezz...
US and Australia Form Clean Energy Pact as WTO Head Calls for “Reglobalized” Supply Chains
Amidst the G7 summit in Hiroshima last weekend, CNBC interviewed the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, concerning her general outlook on the current state of international...
Upload your 3D Models and get them printed quickly and efficiently.