Robocasting can produce strong components with intricate internal structures
3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is advancing by leaps and bounds, and has been used to make everything from customised prosthetics to a concrete bridge. Behind the scenes it is revolutionising rapid prototyping, and there’s even a 3D printer on the International Space Station. Sub-micron 3D printing now offers a fantastic level of control, and produces items with remarkable properties, but is a slow process that is impractical for manufacturing larger objects.
For some time, scientists have known about the remarkably complex internal structures of natural materials such as bone, wood and mother-of-pearl, which give them resistance to cracks and fractures. Replicating these structures with traditional manufacturing methods is impossible, but recent research published in Scientific Reports has demonstrated that 3D printing can be used to produce bio-inspired structures in a reasonable timeframe.