Rutgers Looks at Coating 3D-Printed Objects
Engineers from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, recently announced a new technique for coating complex 3D-printed objects that could lead to new opportunities to develop “smart skins” for a variety of printed parts.
The research findings have been published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
According to the university, traditional brushes and spray methods often run into issues when trying to coat all of the nooks and crannies involved with a complex 3D-printed object. However, their engineers’ new technique is reported to coat any exposed surface and can even foster rapid prototyping.
“Our technique is a more efficient way to coat not only conventional objects, but even hydrogel soft robots, and our coatings are robust enough to survive complete immersion in water and repeated swelling and de-swelling by humidity,” said senior author Jonathan P. Singer, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
Co-lead authors on the research include Dylan A. Kovacevich, a master’s degree student; Lin Lei, a doctoral student; University of Minnesota postdoctoral student Daehoon; Christianna Kuznetsova, an undergraduate; and professor Howon Lee. A researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also contributed to the study.
Using a technique the university calls electrospray deposition, researchers were able to coat objects by applying voltage to fluid flowing through a nozzle, which in turn created a fine spray of droplets.
Prior to the study, the technique was more commonly used in analytical chemistry. However, in recent decades it has been used in lab-scale coating demonstrations for vaccines, light-absorbing layers of solar cells and fluorescent quantum dots for LED displays.
Rutgers’s engineers reportedly took the technique to another level, though. By significantly reducing the amount of materials used, researchers were able to create a thinner, better-targeted paint application. According to Singer, the technique’s development could now be used on nanoparticles and bioactive ingredients, among other cutting-edge materials that would otherwise be too costly in terms of paint.
In addition to the adapted technique, the engineers are now working on the development of an accessory for 3D printers that would allow, for the first time, automated coating of 3D-printed parts with functional, protective or aesthetic layers of paint.
Moving forward, engineers plan to develop surfaces that can change their properties or create chemical reactions to create paints capable of sensing their environment and reporting stimuli to onboard electronics. Eventually, the engineers hope to commercialize the technique and create a complementary method for 3D printers where printed objects could be coated immediately after printing.