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Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 8;9(1):3973. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-40774-5.

Multi-metal 4D printing with a desktop electrochemical 3D printer.

Author information

1
Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK. x.chen15@imperial.ac.uk.
2
Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK. x.liu15@imperial.ac.uk.
3
Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK.
4
Department of Materials, Imperial College London, London, UK.
5
Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK.
6
Dyson School of Design Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK. billy.wu@imperial.ac.uk.

Abstract

4D printing has the potential to create complex 3D geometries which are able to react to environmental stimuli opening new design possibilities. However, the vast majority of 4D printing approaches use polymer based materials, which limits the operational temperature. Here, we present a novel multi-metal electrochemical 3D printer which is able to fabricate bimetallic geometries and through the selective deposition of different metals, temperature responsive behaviour can thus be programmed into the printed structure. The concept is demonstrated through a meniscus confined electrochemical 3D printing approach with a multi-print head design with nickel and copper used as exemplar systems but this is transferable to other deposition solutions. Improvements in deposition speed (34% (Cu)-85% (Ni)) are demonstrated with an electrospun nanofibre nib compared to a sponge based approach as the medium for providing hydrostatic back pressure to balance surface tension in order to form a electrolyte meniscus stable. Scanning electron microscopy, X-ray computed tomography and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy shows that bimetallic structures with a tightly bound interface can be created, however convex cross sections are created due to uneven current density. Analysis of the thermo-mechanical properties of the printed strips shows that mechanical deformations can be generated in Cu-Ni strips at temperatures up to 300 °C which is due to the thermal expansion coefficient mismatch generating internal stresses in the printed structures. Electrical conductivity measurements show that the bimetallic structures have a conductivity between those of nanocrystalline copper (5.41 × 106 S.m-1) and nickel (8.2 × 105 S.m-1). The potential of this novel low-cost multi-metal 3D printing approach is demonstrated with the thermal actuation of an electrical circuit and a range of self-assembling structures.

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