Researchers demo 3D printing of liquid metal

Researchers in the US have discovered a 3D printing technique that can create a variety of stable, free standing structures from liquid metal at room temperature.

"It's difficult to create structures out of liquids, because liquids want to bead up," explained Dr Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University. Unlike processes that pattern metal in plane (on one level), the team has developed multiple techniques that allow the creation of liquid metal structures that reach up or down, which is valuable in the connection of electrical components in three dimensions. One such technique involves stacking droplets of liquid metal on top of each other, which allows them to adhere to one another while retaining their shape. Another injects liquid metal into a polymer template, so that the metal takes on a specific shape. The template is then dissolved, leaving the bare, liquid metal in the desired shape. The researchers also developed techniques for creating liquid metal wires, which retain their shape even when held perpendicular to the substrate. Dickey's team is currently exploring how to further develop these techniques, as well as how to use them in various electronics applications and in conjunction with established 3D printing technologies.