Exactly 50 years ago, Mr. McGuire in the movie The Graduate intimated to the young man named Benjamin about the next big thing in technology: “Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics….”
Today, the ”next big thing” is 3D printing to design and manufacture objects not only out of plastics but also glass, metal and almost anything imaginable.
Will China lose its primacy in being the manufacturer of products for the world, now that technology is making it possible for 3D printers to design and create them individually closer to home? Will hospitals be able to print out replacements for failed human organs, and will technicians be able to produce synthetic food to feed a hungry world? The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which has been very prominent in the innovative field as well as advanced printing materials, is organizing with Yissum, HU’s technology transfer company, a conference on its Givat Ram campus called “3D Printing and Beyond: Current and Future Trends in the World of 3D Printing.” The one-day event on October 25 at the Wise Auditorium has the support of the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and the Jerusalem Municipality. The conference, the first of its kind at HU and open free to the general public, will introduce a variety of breakthrough 3D printing technologies and innovations by Israeli and international experts from academia and industry.
Over 500 people who registered in advance are expected to attend. The conference will offer presentations by speakers from well established companies as well as startups focusing on printing large objects including buildings, prosthetics, electronic circuits, ceramics and medical devices such as a cannabis inhaler. Academic researchers from HU will present recent achievements in nanomaterials for printing, industrial design, food printing and functional inks.
It will be chaired by Prof. Shlomo Magdassi, director of HU’s Institute of Chemistry and its Center for Functional and 3D Printing.
Magdassi’s patented inventions include conductive inks composed of nanoparticles for printed circuit boards; colorful glass-jet inks for printing on windows; black coatings for “harvesting” solar energy; and transparent conductors for printing touch screens. The research activities in the field has produced many scientific papers and led to the establishment of a number of companies. In general, it seems that “Nowadays, the amount of time that passes between theory and application of the ideas has been much shortened.
Today, everybody wants an “exit” to develop and sell an attractive startup company, including academic researchers and students ” he said.
MAGDASSI BEGAN working in the field of materials for printing since 1995 after being contacted by a startup company, Idanit, which later became part of HP. Thanks to entrepreneurs and researchers in companies and Israeli universities, this country has become a world power in the field of printing.
This is because “Israelis know how to work well in teams and excel in their interactions.
Success in this field requires close interactions between mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, materials scientists, software engineers, designers and more.”
Magdassi specializes in the science of colloids, which are mixtures in which one substance of microscopically dispersed insoluble particles is suspended throughout another substance. “Milk and mayonnaise are simple colloids,” he explained. “Instead of fat or oil, you can mix colors to get inks.”
In an extensive interview with The Jerusalem Post
at his office at HU’s Casali Center for Applied Chemistry, Magdassi explained the differences among advance 2D, 3D and 4D printing.
Two-dimensional printing, which originated in the year 200 with woodblock printing and proceeded to movable type in the 11the century, the printing press in the 15th, etching in the 16th, lithography in the 18th, inkjet in 1951 and laser printing in 1969, involves printing – usually with ink – on a flat surface.
Three-dimensional printing – known to experts as additive manufacturing – emerged in 1981, when Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute invented ways of creating 3D plastic models with a polymer that hardened with ultraviolet light (UV). Since then, the number of products that can be used as raw materials has greatly multiplied. Although the various technologies such as binder-jetting and photo-polymerization 3D printing have been around for the past two decades, it is only within the recent years that the field has seen so many novel discoveries, added Dr. Michael Layani, who works in Magdassi’s lab and is co-chairman of the Jerusalem conference.
“These new discoveries are in many related fields, such as new printers (rapid printing suitable for industrial production), new processes (from knitting to paper-based printing), and last but not least, new materials. As material scientists, the last field is of the most interesting to us, as manifested in the significant increase of publications in high-impact journals such as Science, Nature and Advanced Materials, Layani said.
Four-dimensional printing produces three-dimensional objects with an additional dimension, such as those that retain a “memory” and return to their original shape or those that change shape in response to the an external trigger such as humidity, heat, light or a magnetic field. Magdassi noted that this can produce moving parts for soft robots, flexible light sensors, light-emitting devices and hydrogels that swell for biomedical applications. He showed this reporter a video by Shira Eliezer of the Bezalel School of Art of a lovely blue-and-green finger ring that when exposed to warmth or light opens up like a flower and then curls back to its original shape when the wearer goes indoors. Synthetic lace has been produced at the school for strong, stain-resistant and attractive wearable fashions.
Magdassi said that so far, most 3D-processed objects focus mainly on their mechanical properties, but that the next breakthroughs “will come from adding functionalities to the printed objects and combining new materials with faster printing technologies. Our center is moving in the direction of functional printing, by combining the expertise of the various researchers at the university, in scientific disciplines ranging from chemistry, physics, computer science, biology, agriculture and medicine to art and design.”
TWO YEARS ago, HU opened the 3D center, whose innovative research was responsible for the production of the conductive nano-inks used by an Israeli 3D printed electronics company, Nano Dimension, for its flagship circuit board 3D printer. The center was planned as an interdisciplinary hub catering to researchers and students from across the university’s scientific disciplines.
The researchers have devoted themselves to developing new functional structures such as printed robots, plastic solar cells, military and medical equipment, radiation and light detectors, smart windows, sophisticated drug pills and eventually even human organs.
Functioning as a central “printing lab,” it was equipped with devices for inkjet printing, digital-light processing, fused deposition modeling, powder printing and laser sintering (compacting and forming a solid substance with heat or pressure without melting it into a liquid form). Three-D objects can be compressible and stretchable and serve as strong connectors and decorative objects.
“We hope to break new ground in various disciplines and integrate 3D and functional printing into various industrial manufacturing processes, such as in printed electronics, food, medical implants, vehicles, security and even architecture and the construction of buildings,” Magdassi predicted.
As an example of recent research, the Jerusalem chemistry professor along with other HU colleagues and researchers from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore recently published a paper in Advanced Materials Technologies on hydroprinting conductive patterns onto 3D structures, thus producing conductive circuits and patterns.
Hydroprinting is often used to print graphic designs onto uneven surfaces, mostly for the car and decorative industries. This technology can avoid previous problems of transferring color by printing a whole pattern onto a 3D object in just one step. He noted that no polymer layers are required, so conductive materials can be deposited directly on top of each other. This new technology is expected to benefit multiple applications, including soft robotics, biomedical devices, 3D electronics, and 3D printed antennas used for communications.
Magdassi and Layani also collaborated with the Singapore University of Technology and Design’s Digital Manufacturing and Design Center to produce highly flexible “elastomers” for creating more complex geometric shapes; this rubber-like product can be stretched by up to 1,100% and cured with UV light. They can save much time in building molds and assembling parts.
So far, this work has resulted in the development of highly deformable complex 3D hollow structures such as grippers, balloons, buckyball electronic switches and other objects. “We believe these elastomers, together with the UV curing-based 3D printing techniques, will significantly enhance the capability of fabricating soft and deformable 3D structures and devices including soft actuators and robots, flexible electronics, acoustic metamaterials, and many other applications,” Magdassi said.
Another demonstration of functional coating that was developed with chemistry institute colleague Prof. Daniel Mandler, is a special black paint that can absorb solar radiation and convert it into heat to efficiently create electricity. “It is made from black pigment and a kind of ceramic glue. We commercialized it as a spray to a company, called BrightSourceEnergy, that is now using it to produce electricity and provides power to over 100,000 homes in California. Another one is being built now in the Negev with the next generation coatings ; it will be the tallest building in the Middle East,” he said.
“A similar type of material can also be used for 2D and 3D printing. We have developed ink that is inkjet-printed on glass and, when put in an oven, actually becomes embedded in the glass, not only as a layer on top of the surface.” Such color inside glass can protect a car window from sunlight, for example, but is now mainly used for printing glass building facades, by the company Dip-Tech.
Inkjet printing uses inks with nanoparticles, such as nano-metals, that can sometimes merge at low temperatures and even without heating. This is important for printing of electronic circuits, as done at the HU center.
“Nanometals using tiny silver or gold particles can be used for biosensors, optical devices, catalysts, antimicrobial materials, decorative pigments for glass and inks that conduct electricity. This field has competition, but a company that utilizes the developed technology, Nanodimensions, is the most advanced in printed electronics, printing circuit boards in a much shorter development time that reduces costs”, said Magdassi.
“We can also print carbon nanotubes, causing objects to move with different thermal expansion. This can be used to make soft robots, even a synthetic ‘snake’ that can enter rooms by crawling under doors and spying.”
Copper, graphene and other products can also be used for printing on 3D objects.
Even the sky is not the limit in 3D printing, said Magdassi. “We are participating in a competition for printing houses for setting up on Mars, led by Helen Wexler, who will be also presenting at the conference.”
WHILE HE does not think that China, as the supreme manufacturer, will go out of business for conventional products, he believes that there will be a combination of 3D printing and classical manufacturing processes, that utilizes petroleum and biomaterials such as biodiesel.
As for medical uses of 3D printing, Magdassi said that some researchers have begun to produce artificial bone to treat osteoporosis or replace cancerous hard tissue. There are dental uses already. Various objects can be printed that swell up in water and then release drugs gradually. In an acidic environment such as in the stomach, the object may remain closed in the acidic environment; when it reaches the intestines, it could swell.
This would open the door for responsive and programmable and personalized drug products.
He foresees in the “distant future” the printing of human organs.
Finally, the proverbial “holy grail” of the scientific community in the field has yet to be invented. “That would be a printer with the ability to print different classes of materials, to use different printing platforms and integrate post-printing processing. This ability would really enable freedom of design and therefore industrial production of fully functional 3D objects,” Magdassi concluded.