Ceramics are moving into the 4D printing realm for the first time
For some materials, researchers have already moved beyond 3D printing to what’s being called 4D printing. In this process, time becomes the fourth dimension and objects can transform themselves over time when influenced by elements such as heat, mechanical force, or a magnetic field.
Now, scientists in China have developed a novel ink that takes ceramics into this 4D printing realm for the first time, paving the way for new structural applications of the material—including for electronic devices and aerospace. Specifically, a team at City University of Hong Kong created a ceramic ink using a mixture of polymers and ceramic nanoparticles that can print ceramic precursors that are soft and can be stretched three times beyond their initial length.
This malleability allows the material to be turned into complex shapes that weren’t previously possible with ceramics, such as origami folding, said Professor Lu Jian, chair professor of mechanical engineering at the university. “With the versatile shape-morphing capability of the printed ceramic precursors, its application can be huge,” he said in a news release by City University.
Typically, ceramics are complex to cast and shape because of the material’s extremely high melting temperature, and existing 3D-printed ceramic precursors are typically difficult to deform, which has limited the production of ceramics with complex shapes. Through the work of Lu and his team, ceramic precursors could self-reshape using elastic energy stored inside the material that, when released, caused the transformation. After treating the precursors with heat, they turned into ceramics, he said. Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Science Advances. read more