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Erasable ink developed for 3D printing

By Tim Sandle     May 8, 2017 in Technology
Researchers have developed the first ever erasable ink for use with 3D printing. The aim was to come up with an ink suitable for 3D fabrication in biology or materials sciences.
3D printed ink serves many useful functions, such as creating circuit diagrams on materials to be used with electronics and for marking scaffolds used in various biological studies. Scaffolds, for example help a biological object form in three dimensions. This is useful for cell culture or for growing tissues, which are the basis of artificial organs,
The reason for developing an erasable ink for 3D printing was to allow for small structures, no more than 100 nanometers wide (that’s areas no larger than one millionth of a millimeter), to be erased and rewritten repeatedly.
What researchers have come up with is an ink with reversible bonding. This happens because the the building blocks of the ink can be separated from each other. The printed structure can be erased by immersing the material into a chemical solvent. Once erasure has happened, a new structure can be written. This enables the structure to be modified repeatedly.
The research has been led by Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s Institute for Chemical Technology and Polymer Chemistry. The researcher states that the ink has a number of applications.
Applications include developing support constructions. An analogy of these is the structures used to support bridges as they are built, and which are then later removed. This concept can be applied to biosciences, as with 3D printed Petri dishes. For instance structures can be used to grow cell cultures in three dimensions on the laboratory scale. In studies involving cell growth, parts of the 3D microscaffold were successfully removed again to study how the cells reacted to the changed environment.
A next step with the research will be to trial reversible wire bonds made from erasable conducting structures in the future. This would involve experiments in mixing permanent ink with a non-permanent ink to influence the properties of the printed material to make it more or less porous.
The erasable ink has been described in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition. The research paper is titled “Cleaving Direct-Laser-Written Microstructures on Demand.”
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