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A new take on metal-plastic hybrid 3D printing

wallpapers Tech 2021-01-07
Scientists at Waseda University in Japan have developed a new hybrid technology in the latest research published in "Additive Manufacturing", which can produce 3D objects made of metal and plastic. Professor Shinjiro Umezu, who led the research, explained their motivation: “Even if 3D printers let us create 3D structures from metal and plastic, most of the objects we see around us are a combination of the two, including electronic devices. Therefore, we think If we manage to use traditional 3D printers to create 3D objects made of metal and plastic, we will be able to expand their range of applications."
 
Their method is actually a significant improvement over the conventional metallization process of coating 3D plastic structures with metal. In the traditional method, a plastic object is 3D printed and then immersed in a solution containing palladium (Pd), which adheres to the surface of the object. Then, the workpiece is immersed in an electroless plating bath, and then the deposited Pd is used as a catalyst to make the dissolved metal ions adhere to the object. Although technically reasonable, conventional methods produce uneven metal coatings and are difficult to adhere to plastic structures.
 
Instead, in the new mixing method, a printer with dual nozzles is used. One nozzle extrudes standard molten plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS), while the other nozzle extrudes ABS with PdCl2. By selectively printing the layer using one or the other nozzle, Pd loads a specific area of the 3D object. Then, through electroless plating, a plastic structure with a metal coating on only selected areas is finally obtained.
 
Scientists found that when using their method, the adhesion of the metal coating is higher. In addition, because Pd is loaded in the raw material, unlike conventional methods, its technology does not require any type of roughening or etching on the ABS structure to promote catalyst deposition. This is especially important when considering that these additional steps not only cause damage to the 3D object itself due to the use of toxic chemicals such as chromic acid but also damage the environment. Finally, their method is fully compatible with existing fuse manufacturing 3D printers.
 
Umezu believes that considering its potential use in 3D electronics, metal-plastic hybrid 3D printing may become very important in the near future, which is the focus of upcoming IoT and artificial intelligence applications. In this regard, he added: "Our hybrid 3D printing method opens up the possibility of manufacturing 3D electronic products so that the equipment and robots used in healthcare and nursing can become better than today's equipment and robots."
 
This research is expected to pave the way for hybrid 3D printing technology, which will allow us to take full advantage of the dual advantages of metal and plastic.

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