Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

Circa March 2019, a group of researchers at Texas A&M University 3D printed a device that mimics the geometry of a pistol shrimp’s claw and the plasma-generating action of it snapping. The project was fronted by Mechanical Engineering associate professor Dr. David Staack, and started as a spin off from a project on electrical discharge plasma in liquids. The team were prompted to investigate replicating the properties of the shrimp’s plasma generation process when comparing it to their original experiments. They hope their work could be applied to things like underwater drilling, sterilising water, refining oil and reducing drag for boats.

When a pistol shrimp snaps its claw, it shoots a jet of water fast enough to generate a cavitation bubble that makes a loud noise and emits light on collapse. (The word cavitation can be defined as “the sudden formation and collapse of low-pressure bubbles in liquids by means of mechanical forces, such as those resulting from rotation of a marine propeller.”) The process produces sufficiently high temperatures and pressures to form a plasma.

The team believes that 3D printing enabled them to make a scaled-up model of a shrimp’s claw in a way that would have been impossible a few years ago. The model was 5 times larger than what would have been found in nature and used a mousetrap-like spring system to compensate for not having a shrimp’s muscles.

Staack has taken inspiration from this experiment to work with a different research team on a project to evolve technology used to drill geothermal wells. Hard rocks like granite remain a problem in drilling geothermal wells, wearing down drill bits and making the drilling process slower and more expensive. The so-called “SPARC technology” (short for Shockwave and Plasma Accelerated Rock Cracking) would equip the tip of a drill bit with high-voltage electrodes that would emit a microscopic-level discharge of plasma; this would crack the rock like a small-scale explosion and make it easier to drill through.

For further work, the team intend to investigate how to make the model claw work more efficiently, how large they can make the mechanism and potential applications.

3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.

Disclaimer: Featured image of “Detail of shrimp” has been released into the public domain by its author, known only as Paolo Neo. This applies worldwide. In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so: Paolo Neo grants anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.