For 3D printers to reach their potential, they need to handle more than one material and be able to swap quickly and seamlessly between them. That’s a tall order given how different materials like silicone and wax are. But a new 3D printer tackles that challenge using microfluidic nozzles designed extrude multiple fluids in quick succession.
The nozzle controls which fluid it ejects by pressurizing individual fluids, allowing it to switch from one to another up to 50 times a second (first image). Multiple nozzles, each containing multiple fluids, can be used to print periodically-patterned designed more quickly than previously possible (second image). The system can even directly print air-powered robots with both soft and hard components (third image). (Image and video credit: Nature, with M. Skylar-Scott et al.; research credit: M. Skylar-Scott et al.; via Nature; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)