3D printed materials got a huge boost late last month when MarkForged announced that it had created a carbon fiber 3D printer. It’s not only 3D printed materials that are getting stronger though as material scientists are now using the technology to create new super strong materials that may be used one day in building lightweight, yet powerful, structures.
Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology revealed this week that is has invented a new material that’s lighter than water, yet stronger than steel. It achieved this by using a 3D printer to create a material similar to bone. The researchers used 3D laser lithography – a kind of 3D printing that creates objects out of light sensitive resin. This technology allowed the team to create a porous material like that seen in bone where the space in between the solids is small enough to make a difference in weight, but not enough to affect its strength.
From there, the team created five materials and tested them by exerting 280 megapascals of force onto them. In other words, these structures were forced to endure pressure of 40,000 pounds per square inch. This test revealed that the strongest material was one which had an internal honeycomb like structure. Here’s a video of the tests:
As you can imagine, a material that’s lighter than water, yet stronger than steel could be used in many applications. Unfortunately, the materials aren’t very big at this point. The team has only been able to create materials that are measured in micrometers. As technology progresses, however, we may yet see structures being built that are strong enough to withstand even the greatest disaster yet light enough to be carried by just a few men.
If you want to learn more, you can read the full research paper over at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.