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This 3D printer uses lasers and silver nanoparticles to print in midair

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Thomas Brazier
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Traditional 3D printers work by extruding filament – typically either PLA or ABS – layer by layer, building the print from the ground up.

In contrast, this new method, dubbed laser-assisted direct ink writing, prints microscopic, free-standing silver nanoparticle structures.

The heated silver is extruded and immediately hit with a programmed laser that anneals the metal using just the right amount of energy.

The printing nozzle can move on X, Y and Z axes which, when combined with the rotating print stage, enables freeform curvature.

Wyss Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Mark Skylar-Scott, who is the first author of the study, said the most challenging aspect during development was dialing in the exact nozzle-to-laser separation distance.

This allowed them to modulate the printing speed and distance between the nozzle and laser to control the annealing process on the fly.

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Thomas Brazier
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