Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology: Exploring 3D & 4D Printing in Optics & Beyond
“Abundant new opportunities exist for exploration.”
Korean researchers from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology are exploring more complex digital fabrication—and on two different levels, outlined in the recently published ‘3D and 4D printing for optics and metaphonics.’
The authors explore the latest progress made by researchers in both 3D and 4D printing, mainly as related to nanophotonics and metaphotonics, regarding materials, design, applications, and other areas such as reconfigurable structures.
As 3D printing becomes more accessible and more affordable around the world, users on many levels are becoming aware of the benefits, from greater speed and improved efficiency to the ability for customizing parts in nearly every related application—along with the potential for digital fabrication of much more complex, and highly functional, geometries.
Today, 3D printing is also used for creating optical components and metaphotonic structures—most importantly, without assembly required later. Optical parts can be put together along the ‘out-of-plane’ direction and can also be printed on nonplanar surfaces. The opportunities for customization may be limitless, and as designs are streamlined, waste of materials lessens significantly.
“Moreover, 3D printing can be useful for fabricating metaphotonic structures. Metaphotonics offers unprecedented control of electromagnetic fields in engineered materials and structures, in a manner not achievable with conventional optics,” state the researchers. “Therefore, metaphotonics often require nonconventional, complex 3D structures.”
4D printing certainly adds a fascinating twist to the world of digital fabrication, as materials may be surprisingly flexible and versatile, deforming as necessary (and as programmed, deeming them to be ‘smart materials’) and according to the environment—whether that may be humidity, temperature, or other factors. 4D active structures may be used in creating products like:
- Deployable structures
- Soft robotics
- Medical devices
“Additionally, 4D printing can be applied to active optical and microwave structures,” state the researchers.
Functional materials for both 3D and 4D printing include:
- Embedded functional nanoparticles
- Filaments and inks for microwave antennas and components
- Smart materials for 4D printing
In terms of design and applications, the authors realize the ‘special advantages’ 3D and 4D printing hold over more conventional methods, although many manufacturers may still be reluctant to embrace such new technology. The use of freeform optical components is already becoming popular today though due to the benefits in numerous optical applications such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
“Recently, a parabolic mirror with nanometer-scale surface roughness (approximately 3 nm) was fabricated using SLA,” stated the researchers. “Its focused beam profile was almost identical to the beam from a mirror fabricated via conventional diamond milling.
“Optical parts were printed using SLA and a wax printer then, a polymer mixture gel composed of methacrylates, acrylates, and urethane-based polymers was coated and UV-cured.”
Optical waveguides and optoelectronic devices can be created, along with optical metamaterials, terahertz components, microwave metamaterials, and more.
4D printing shows potential in a wide variety of applications but may offer special opportunity in creating optical and microwave structures, with the ability to transform nanophotonics and metaphotonics in:
- Active photonic devices
- Optical sensors
“With biocompatible materials (such as hydrogels), implantable and stimuli-responsive photonic devices can be developed for biomedical applications,” concluded the researchers. “There are abundant new opportunities for investigation. For example, it was recently demonstrated that a dimer of aqueous beads induced strong field enhancement in the gap upon microwave incidence.
“Hydrogels consist of mostly water (>99%) and are commonly used in 4D printing. Thus, there could be interesting research opportunities involving the combination of stimuli-responsive functions with the microwave response in 3D-printed hydrogel structures.”
“Our review can be helpful for researchers in the nanophotonics and metaphotonics communities who wish to learn about recent ideas and developments in 3D and 4D printing.”
What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.[Source / Images: ‘3D and 4D printing for optics and metaphonics’]
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