3D printing free standing liquid metal microstructures 3D printing free standing liquid metal microstructures
jul 10, 2013

3D printing free standing liquid metal microstructures

NC state 3D prints liquid metals at room temperature
image courtesy michael dickey




researchers at NC state university have developed a way to print liquid metals into three dimensional structures at room temperature. using a type of gallium alloy, the metal stabilizes and forms a thin oxide skin to create volumes that are not possible using conventional liquids, like water. in the demonstration above, the process is expelled as small metal droplets, carefully organized in sequence as an antenna on-top of a roach, illustrating how small the features can be rendered when compared to a familiar reference point. in addition, the resulting components can, in principle, self-heal, allowing for the formation of mechanically stable structures strong enough to stand against gravity and the large surface tension of the liquid. the method is capable of printing wires, arrays of spheres, arches, and interconnected forms.



3D printing of liquid metals at room temperature
video courtesy michael dickey



direct write of free standing liquid metal wires.
image courtesy michael dickey



sequential images in which a syringe needle extrudes liquid metal to form a straight wire on a withdrawn substrate. the oxide skin on the surface of the metal stabilizes the liquid metal wire against gravity and surface tension. the diameter of the wire is 270 μm. the length of the rightmost wire is ∼ 8 mm. in the last image, the wire was intentionally severed by applying vacuum to the syringe.



photographs of the diverse free standing, liquid metal micro structures that can be direct printed at room temperature
image courtesy michael dickey



(a) liquid metal ejected rapidly from a glass capillary forms a thin wire.
(b) these fibers are strong enough to suspend over a gap despite being composed of liquid.
(c) a free standing liquid metal arch.
(d) a tower of liquid metal droplets.
(e) a 3D cubic array of stacked drop-lets.
(f) a metal wire and an arch composed of liquid metal droplets.
(g) an array of in-plane lines of free standing liquid metal fabricated by filling a micro channel with the metal and dissolving away the mold. scale bars represent 500 μm.

  • Impressing…but wouldn’t they melt also at room temperature? How strong are the printed structures?

    Dirk16 says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

technology news