In a first, Chinese scientists have developed a new conceptual liquid-phase 3D printing method with "ink" consisting of a metal alloy that has a melting point slightly above room temperature.
Compared with air cooling in conventional 3D printing, their liquid-phase manufacturing process prevents the metal ink from oxidation.
In recent years, these scientists state, metals with a low-melting point, especially metals that melt at room temperature, have attracted extensive attention in the areas of computer chip cooling, thermal interface materials and microfluidics.
"Such material has also been proposed as printing ink with evident value in direct writing electronics and 3D printing technology," said Liu Jing from Beijing Key Laboratory of CryoBiomedical Engineering, part of the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In their new study, a four-element alloy was developed and adopted as the printing ink.
The 3D metal printing technology is an expanding field that has enormous potential applications in areas ranging from supporting structures, functional electronics to medical devices.
Conventional 3D metal printing is generally restricted to metals with a high-melting point and the process is rather time consuming.
The study appeared in the journal Science China.