Current 3D polymer printers usually need a disk of filament as the printing materials, while a filament-free 3D printer was recently invented by International Center for Materials Discovery of Northwestern Polytechnical University, Xi'an China. 3D printing plastic filament (PLA or ABS) is usually 100~300 CNY/kg ($16/kg), while the plastic particles only need about 20 CNY/kg ($3/kg). Plastic particles can be instantly melt for direct writing layer by layer for forming 3D objects, which will greatly reduce the cost of printing supplies. The most attractive feature of such technology is to freely mix particles to achieve a variety of composite materials printing and to reuse the source materials.
Dr. Qingfeng Zeng, associate professor in materials science and engineering, who also works at the Science and Technology on Thermostructural Composite Materials Laboratory, organized this invention. He calls this printer as PCPrinter (Particle Cloud Printer), which means integrating discrete particles into free clouds, indicating the powerful freeform capabilities of the PCPrinter.
The International Center for Materials Discovery was established on March 9, 2014. The center brings together top scientists in the fields of materials genome from Stony Brook University and University of Delaware (USA), the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (Russia), University of Evry (France), Tsinghua University (China), Southwest Jiaotong University (China), Synfuels Technology Co., Ltd (China), and Northwestern Polytechnical University (China). They will focus on the R&D of key materials used for advanced energy, electronic information technology, chemical engineering and aerospace. The center aims to realize rapid discovering, rapid analyzing, and rapid manufacturing new materials. Top academic papers, advanced materials, and high-tech software tools will be produced in this center. Innovative talents will be cultivated in this center as well.
Dr. Zeng has been carrying out optimization design of advanced ceramics and their composites in the Science and Technology on Thermostructural Composite Materials Laboratory led by Academician Professor Litong Zhang and Changjiang Scholar Professor Laifei Cheng. Dr. Zeng also served as a consulting expert for the Materials Genome project of Chinese Academy of Science. The development of filament-free 3D printing technology can be applied to rapid manufacturing of multifunctional composite materials, polymer derived ceramic materials, and biomedical tissue engineering etc. It will have significant effects on the high throughput materials genome research and advanced functional devices manufacture.(5th, June)