Researchers Develop ‘Amazing’ Creative 3D Printed Ice Structures
The researchers demonstrated this by printing a tree, a propeller around a pole, and even a millimeter-tall octopus figurine in ice. Due to the rapid phase change of water and the strength of ice, free-form 3D printing of ice structures has been possible without the need for layer-by-layer printing or tedious support structures.
“Controlling so many parameters was difficult,” explained Garg. “We gradually built in complexity.”
Experiments were conducted to determine the imprint path, motion step velocity, and droplet frequencies needed to fabricate smooth ice structures with straight, tilted, branched, and hierarchical geometries in a reproducible manner.
Burak Ozdoganlar, associate director of CMU’s Engineering Research Accelerator, who oversaw the study, called it “an incredible achievement that will bring exciting breakthroughs.”
“We believe this approach has enormous potential to revolutionize tissue engineering and other fields, where miniature structures with complex channels are required, such as for microfluidics and soft robotics.”
In just a year, the 3D ice process could be used for engineering applications such as creating pneumatic channels for soft robotics. However, the clinical application of tissue engineering will take longer.
The study was first published in Advanced sciences.
Water is one of the most important elements for life on earth. Water’s rapid phase change ability as well as its environmental and biological compatibility also make it a unique structural material for 3D printing ice structures in a repeatable and accurate manner. This work presents the 3D-freeform ice printing (3D-ICE) process for the high-speed and reproducible fabrication of ice structures with microscale resolution. Dropping water on demand on a -35°C platform quickly turns water into ice. The dimension and geometry of the structures are critically controlled by modulation of the droplet ejection frequency and stage motions. The free-form approach avoids layer-by-layer construction and support structures, even for cantilever geometries. Complex and cantilever geometries, branching hierarchical structures with smooth transitions, circular cross-sections, smooth surfaces, and micro-scale features (as small as 50 µm) are demonstrated. As an example application, ice models are used as sacrificial geometries to produce resin parts with well-defined internal characteristics. This approach could offer interesting opportunities for microfluidics, biomedical devices, soft electronics and art.