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.

On September 3rd 2020, researchers at Harvard University‘s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) of Cambridge, Massachusetts announced that they had developed a wool-like, 3D printable material made from keratin that could remember and change its shape in response to certain stimuli. (Keratin is a protein found in hair and nails, although for this experiment it was extracted from leftover Angora wool used in the production of textiles. As an example of keratin’s so-called “shape memory” characteristics, SEAS cited hair straightened with heat returning to curls on contact with water.) Their research was published in the journal Nature Materials.

To demonstrate their material’s properties, the researchers 3D printed sheets of keratin in a variety of shapes, “programming” the shape a sheet would return to on cue via a special chemical solution. In one instance, a 3D printed keratin sheet was chemically programmed to be in the shape of an origami star. Once immersed in water, it unfolded and became malleable, where it was rolled into a tube shape, remaining as such when dry. When put back into water, it reverted to the origami star shape. SEAS hopes that their material will have applications in bioengineering and smart textiles, in particular helping wider efforts of reducing waste in the fashion industry. (Smart textiles are textiles that can have electronic components woven into them.)

Other examples of novel 3D printed materials include a special sort of 3D printable ultra-hard, lightweight, load-bearing and even bullet resistant material unveiled by Rice University of Houston, Texas in November 2019. Based on a polymer variant of a still mostly theoretical material structure call tubulanes, Rice University proclaimed that their material marked the next step towards the holy grail of material science.

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 Bales of wool stored at Port Adelaide(GN11278) has been dedicated to the public domain by its author under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.