3D Printing Liquid Metal on a Spider’s Head at Room Temperature (VIDEO)

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3D Printing metal is not easy, it usually takes serious heat and/or serious laser power to melt metal particles together to make a 3D form.  A team at North Carolina State University have devised a method to 3D print liquid metal at room temperature using a thin oxide layer on the surface of the metal allows for the formation of mechanically stable structures strong enough to stand against gravity and the large surface tension of the liquid. The method is capable of printing wires, arrays of spheres, arches, and interconnects.

Check out the video of the printing in action that is worth watching for the soundtrack, let alone 3D printing liquid metal on a spider’s head…

Also note that the video has been sped up 40-50x so it is not a blindingly fast process.

liquid metal 3D Printer Shapeways

via 3Ders

14 comments

  1. Glenn Slingsby

    “…. a spider killed it beforehand” – Haha, too funny…. Seriously excellent tech, though. So when is Shapeways getting one? :)

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  2. Anonymous

    Pretty sure that’s a moth by the way.

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  3. mkroeker

    Keep in mind that this alloy is and stays liquid at room temperature, save for
    the thin oxide layer that (probably barely) keeps it from pooling on the floor.
    (A nice science fair toy nonetheless, though the time-lapse video is probably
    more impressive and easier to show around than the thing itself)

  4. MrNib

    If you want all the gory details
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201301400/pdf

    “We focus on the binary eutectic alloy of gallium and indium (EGaIn, 75% Ga 25% In by weight), but any alloy of gallium will also work. EGaIn is liquid at room temperature (m.p. ?15.7 ° C) with metallic conductivity. [23] The liquid metal exhibits a negligible vapor pressure and low toxicity. Upon exposure to air, the metal forms a thin ( ? 1 nm) passivating“skin” composed of gallium oxide. [2] Passivation occurs nearly instantaneously under atmospheric oxygen levels and electrical resistance remains largely unaffected because the skin is thin. [24] In addition, the liquid metal adheres to most surfaces and alloys with many metals to form ohmic contacts.”

    There’s still the matter of oxides present on the electrical leads of the (Radio Shack) components they are connecting together. Normally with solder you use flux to clean off the oxides and get good metal to metal connections. You may not have such great electrical connections using this technique but perhaps it would be better using gold plated metals on the component connections. This likely has applications in MEMS switches and re-configurable super high frequency antennas.

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  5. Bill Shirley

    I can’t believe I came here only to be lied to by Shapeways.

    “on a Spider’s Head” – boldfaced lies, I say – the technology isn’t as advanced as i’d hoped. ;-)

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