A new method of 3D printing with liquid metals has emerged

Researchers at the US Department of Energy have unveiled a new method for printing using liquid metals. It can be scaled, and the approach itself is safer than analogs.

A team of scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has simulated droplets’ ejection using the 3D printing technique on metal. The researchers note that this is a critical aspect of the future development of liquid metal printing technology.

The group describes how to simulate a process where molten droplets of liquid metal are poured into layers to 3D print a part. This process does not require lasers or metal powders; it is more like inkjet printing.

Using this model, the researchers studied the dynamics of the primary decay of metal droplets required to improve the printing process. Unlike similar methods (such as printing with powder), it does not require a large array of materials or handling potentially hazardous powders, the researchers note.

“Right now, we don’t have an understanding of the entire physics of printing with a liquid in the form of a metal,” said co-author Andy Pascall. “This model points to additional physical mechanisms that may need to be explored to move from experimentation to simulation.”

To conduct the research, the team created a special liquid metal printer capable of extruding tin drops. Combined with high-speed printing, the printer served as an experimental base for free droplet printing and allowed the team to track detailed dynamics during emissions.

Research has shown that this technique is stable and reproducible. The team now plans to investigate droplet extrusion across a wider range of process parameters and seek a deeper understanding of the factors influencing droplet shape, decay, and formation of high-grade materials.

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