Because most 3D printers can only use one substance at a time, making complex creations using multiple materials takes an impractically long time.
A new printhead designed by Harvard University’s Wyss Institute addresses this problem by using high-pressure valves to switch between eight substances up to 50 times per second.
“When printing an object using a conventional extrusion-based 3D printer, the time required to print it scales cubically with the length of the object, because the printing nozzle has to move in three dimensions rather than just one,” said the Wyss Institute’s Mark Skylar-Scott.
“[Multi-material multi-nozzle 3D printing] effectively eliminates the time lost to switching printheads and helps get the scaling law down from cubic to linear, so you can print multi-material, periodic 3D objects much more quickly.”
The printhead has been used to produce origami structures and a soft actuating robot that can carry eight times its own weight.