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A new method of microscale 3D printing features in-situ resin mixing, delivery and exchange, and a robotic material cleansing system to allow switching between materials of different modulus, or flexibility, without cross contamination between properties.

The method, called multimaterial programmable additive manufacturing with integrated resin delivery, is featured in the journal Scientific Reports. The technology could be useful in various applications, including aircraft wing structures, protective coatings, energy absorption, actuation, flexible armor, artificial muscles, and microrobotics.

Xiaoyu "Rayne" Zheng, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and a member of the Macromolecules Innovation Institute, said the microscale manufacturing system can be up-scaled to the centimeter levels and above.

“We use this new technique to create materials with programmed stiffness,” said Zheng. “Basically, you can program where the modulus is distributed in 3D. With this programming we can achieve morphing capability – to stretch and deform in different directions.”

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