New technology doesn’t even have a chance to get old before the next best thing is upon us. I wrote about this dizzying concept in a previous article.
3-D printing is a technology most of us are aware of, but few of us are using on a day-to-day basis. But we’ll have 3-D printers in our homes before too long. But even before that happens, it looks like a new method of printing metals could turn the manufacturing industry on its head.
Engineers at Northwestern University have come up with a new way to print three-dimensional metallic objects using liquid inks. Their method is considerably cheaper and faster than the current technique, which uses powders, and results in a more uniform printing process. The new method can be used to print a wide variety of metals, alloys, metal mixtures, oxides and compounds.
Ironically, though the process uses liquid ink, the printed material solidifies instantaneously. It can be fused with other materials, which means large objects can be easily created quite rapidly. Obviously, this method would give suppliers the ability to bypasses conventional manufacturing methods.
Among the uses the engineers at Northwestern envision this technology being used for are the production of medical implants and devices, batteries, fuel cells, and mechanical parts for automotive, aeronautical and other industries.
The research was published in the Advanced Functional Materials.
This advancement a great example of how materials science is going to continue to evolve 3-D printing and expand its use as a production tool. While this is going to foster innovation at a level our society has never experienced and allow more people to introduce products without the huge start-up investment used in conventional manufacturing, the same product liability issues will exist for the manufacturer and creator of the products. If the product injures someone or causes property damage because of a manufacturing defect, design defect or instruction or warning defect, the manufacturers and sellers of the products will ultimately be held responsible.
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