A pasty mix of water and solid as well as liquid forms of silicone are the key ingredients for a new “ink” that can be used in 3D printers, say NCSU researchers.

The new technique was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials. And NCSU has filed for patent protection.

NCSU sees possible benefits in biomedical applications and “soft” robotics.

“There is great interest in 3-D printing of silicone rubber, or PDMS, which has a number of useful properties,” said Velev, INVISTA Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State. “The challenge is that you generally need to rapidly heat the material or use special chemistry to cure it, which can be technically complex.

“Our method uses an extremely simple extrudable material that can be placed in a 3-D printer to directly prototype porous, flexible structures – even under water,” Velev added. “And it is all accomplished with a multiphasic system of just two materials – no special chemistry or expensive machinery is necessary. The ‘trick’ is that both the beads and the liquid that binds them are silicone, and thus make a very cohesive, stretchable and bendable material after shaping and curing.”

The paper was written beirst author Sangchul Roh, an NC State Ph.D. candidate; NC State graduate student Dishit Parekh; Bhuvnesh Bharti, a faculty member at Louisiana State University; and Dr. Simeon Stoyanov of Wageningen University in The Netherland.

NCSU sees possible benefits in biomedical applications and “soft” robotics.