Liquid Metal Structures & 3D Printing

Researchers at North Carolina State University have a really nifty video to share:

Members of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering published a paper on July 4, 2013 that details their work. Entitled “3D Printing of Free Standing Liquid Metal Microstructures” is available through Wiley’s online library.

In essence, a room-temperature metallic liquid containing gallium and indium is used within a 3-D printer concept. When the liquid is exposed to the air, the outer layer forms an oxide which is slightly stiffer than the liquid itself. The result is a liquid metal that can be used to forms small structures.

These structures are only stable enough to withstand the force of gravity in small towers. Still, as a rudimentary step, this is exciting progress with implications for electronics manufacturing and for 3D printing in general. According to the Abstract, “The method is capable of printing wires, arrays of spheres, arches, and interconnects.”

Cool stuff!