Watch your back, soldering irons; you and your lead smoke are about to be disruptively innovated to oblivion. Researchers at North Carolina State demonstrated a new 3D printing method for shaping metals in the cheeky and charming video above, and in a new paper in the journal Advanced Materials.
Printing with liquid metal is difficult because the liquids want to form in larger droplets. That’s fine if you want to create a blob, but there are only so many blob-shaped things in the world, and most of them are paperweights. And those have all been sort of pointless ever since air conditioning.
The NC State researchers' method coats the metal with a thin oxide skin, just one nanometer thick. The skin keeps the liquid metal in shape, allowing the construction of metal structures in real time, like permanent Bucky Balls. It also allows for the creation of wires and interconnections on circuit boards, with tiny, thread-like accuracy. Just when you think, “Oh, okay this is pretty cool, time to click away,” they make tiny metal antlers on what looks like a flea or dustmite.
Seriously, watch that video. It’s balls out impressive.