Groundbreaking 3D Printing Technologies a “Game Changer” for Exploring and Manufacturing New Materials

High-Throughput Combinatorial Printing

Higher-throughput combinatorial printing illustration. The new 3D printing strategy, substantial-throughput combinatorial printing (HTCP), greatly accelerates the discovery and creation of new resources. Credit: College of Notre Dame

A novel 3D printing method identified as significant-throughput combinatorial printing (HTCP) has been produced that noticeably accelerates the discovery and manufacturing of new products.

The procedure entails mixing a number of aerosolized nanomaterial inks during printing, which enables for good control around the printed materials’ architecture and local compositions. This strategy generates products with gradient compositions and properties and can be utilized to a large array of substances like metals,

The time-honored Edisonian trial-and-error process of discovery is slow and labor-intensive. This hampers the development of urgently needed new technologies for clean energy and environmental sustainability, as well as for electronics and biomedical devices.

“It usually takes 10 to 20 years to discover a new material,” said Yanliang Zhang, associate professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame.

“I thought if we could shorten that time to less than a year — or even a few months — it would be a game changer for the discovery and manufacturing of new materials.”

Now Zhang has done just that, creating a novel 3D printing method that produces materials in ways that conventional manufacturing can’t match. The new process mixes multiple aerosolized nanomaterial inks in a single printing nozzle, varying the ink mixing ratio on the fly during the printing process. This method — called high-throughput combinatorial printing (HTCP) — controls both the printed materials’ 3D architectures and local compositions and produces materials with gradient compositions and properties at microscale spatial resolution.

His research was published on May 10, 2023, in the journal Nature.

The aerosol-based HTCP is extremely versatile and applicable to a broad range of metals, semiconductors, and dielectrics, as well as polymers and biomaterials. It generates combinational materials that function as “libraries,” each containing thousands of unique compositions.

Combining combinational materials printing and high-throughput characterization can significantly accelerate materials discovery, Zhang said. His team has already used this approach to identify a semiconductor material with superior thermoelectric properties, a promising discovery for energy harvesting and cooling applications.

In addition to speeding up discovery, HTCP produces functionally graded materials that gradually transition from stiff to soft. This makes them particularly useful in biomedical applications that need to bridge between soft body tissues and …

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