The Mataerial printer squirts quick-drying polymers from a nozzle, like it was frosting a cake, creating a new model for 3-D printing that doesn’t require layers and supports to make a new object.
While many creators look at 3-D printing as a technology full of endless potential, designers Petr Novikov and Saša Joki? saw something with room for improvement.
“There is a variety of different 3-D printing types […] and no matter how they work, they all work with layers,” explains Novikov. Machines extrude plastic layer by layer until the desired shape slowly accrues. “We thought that this is strange because layers are not very efficient”: they require the presence of a support structure to prop up an object as it’s printed, which restricts the printing process to horizontal surfaces. Plus the technique can increase the printing time, the use of materials, and the risk of damaging an object when removing it from its support structure.
Novikov and Joki?, who were studying at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona last fall, wondered about printing with fibers instead of layers. Since then, they’ve worked to research, design, and patent a new method for 3-D printing called Mataerial, which squeezes polymers from a nozzle in a way that’s reminiscent of how bakers squeeze icing from a tube to frost a cake.
“The material that comes out of the nozzle is still kind of viscous–It’s not a liquid already but its not a solid material, so what we wanted to do is make it solid the same exact moment it comes out of the nozzle,” Novikov says. “And that’s the hardest part. Because if it solidifies before it comes out of the nozzle, then its going to make a clog… but if it solidifies after it leaves the nozzle, than its going to be weak and fall down.”
The secret was finding two liquid polymers that, when mixed, quickly harden. They’re calling the resulting method “Anti-Gravity Object Modeling,” since the material’s just-in-time solidification eschews the need for any sort of support structure, turning hard in mid-air.
The new method is exciting for a number of reasons.
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