The advantage of 3D printing is that objects can be created that can’t be made any other way.
This recent MIT project is a tiny pump which is operated magnetically. Luis Fernando Velásquez-García, principal research scientist at MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL), led the team that built it, commenting that is could be used in several applications such as fuel cells, power generation and heat exchangers that cool computer chips. It’s believed to be the first demonstration of a magnetic, multi-material pump 3D printed monolithically, all in one piece.
Two models have been made. In the first one, a magnet is press-fitted into the structure of the enclosing piston. With the second, they used Nylon 12 embedded with neodymium magnet (NdFeB) microparticles to create the pump’s magnetic core. Velásquez-García said, “Nylon 12 is an excellent structural material that can easily absorb large amounts of the magnetic particles, and is sturdy enough to hold still the NdFeB microparticles during the initial magnetisation, which makes possible to create strong permanent magnets. In a softer material, the particles would wobble, resulting in no net magnetisation of the magnetic composite.”
It was created in 75 minutes at a cost of around US$3.89 per unit.
Metal in mind
Meanwhile at the other end of the scale the Australian army is reporting success with its WarpSpee3D cold spray metal machine. It’s knocking out objects up to 40kg at a speed of 100grams per minute.
It’s part of a 12 month assessment of the technology which started in February, and now it’s received a number of upgrades and modifications. WarpSpee3D boss Byron Kennedy said, “It proves that soldiers can take control of the whole workflow of creating the spare parts they need, from design to printing and post-processing, right here where they need them.”
The trials have seen the kit being used in various field locations in temperatures up to 38 degrees Celsius and 80% humidity, whilst printing genuine military metal parts.
• Read about how the subsea industry is using 3D printing to hep fight Covid-19 here.