Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Researchers develop technique to 3D print 'living' plastics

In a world-first, researchers at the University of Auckland have demonstrated how to 3D print a ‘living’ resin, a novel technique that enables the creation of ‘living’ and ‘self-repairing’ plastics, and could be a game changer in medical implants and the recycling of plastics.

By ‘living’ resin the researchers mean a 3D printable material which can change its properties after it has been produced; which includes the ability to ‘grow’ in size and mass, as well as ‘self-repair’ when damaged, which adds a new dimension to the existing 3D printing process.

Honours students Chris Bainbridge, Kyle Engel and third-year undergraduate Briony Daley, under the supervision of Dr Jianyong Jin and Dr Ali Bagheri of the School of Chemical Sciences from the Faculty of Science, accomplished a world-first by producing an example of ‘living’ 3D printing using a technique known as RAFT (reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer) polymerisation.

In 2018, the team came up with the idea of applying the RAFT technique to 3D printing and carried out research to perfect the process, dubbing the project “THING” named after the 1982 movie.

“If 3D printing, often called additive manufacturing, is the new frontier of the fourth industrial revolution, this new technique is at the forefront of that frontier.”, Dr Jin said.

3D printing is commonly done with polymerisation process in an uncontrolled fashion. The technique advances 3D printing in two main ways with the big breakthrough being that the RAFT technique used produced objects that Dr Jin calls ‘dormant’. Traditionally 3D printing produces inert objects that cannot change. RAFT technique objects can 'grow', 'self-repair', and can insert new compounds to alter their properties. The novel technique, in effect, enables the printing of 3D objects with the ability to transform after production. Additionally, traditional 3D printed objects are ‘cured’ or set with ultraviolet light.

Dr Ali Bagheri said this new technique pushes to use visible light, such as green and red, which requires less energy and is safer. This potentially opens new opportunities in biomedical applications where it is not safe to use harmful UV light.

Kyle gives a not entirely fanciful example. Shoes 3D printed with this technique, could be programmed to grow with the wearer. Self-repairing plastic offers the potential to reduce plastic waste, the cost and time to recycle which often means breaking down plastic objects into raw material for reuse. Chris said he is fascinated with this invention and they are both eager to explore the sensing and soft robotics applications during their PhD studies.

The researchers demonstrated the technique by producing the word RAFT as a yellow 3D printed object, and then exposing it to a growth medium. The recipe for the medium contained fluorescent compounds that were bound to the printed RAFT word such that it began to ‘grow’ and glow blue.

The team’s seminal paper was submitted for publication to the Royal Society of Chemistry ‘s flagship polymer journal “Polymer Chemistry” on 20 September, 2019 and was accepted for publication on 4 November, 2019 (DOI: 10.1039/C9PY01419E).

The University of Auckland team collaborated with researchers from the University of New South Wales and University of Melbourne, and acknowledge support from the Endeavour Fund administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Westpac: Sets Out Plan To Go Cheque-Free

Westpac NZ has announced details of its plan to phase out cheques, after signalling in May that it would be supporting a move to other forms of payment. Cheques will cease to be available as a means of payment after 25 June 2021. Westpac NZ General ... More>>


NZTA: Major New Zealand Upgrade Programme Projects Go To Tender

Two major New Zealand Upgrade Programme projects are beginning tenders for construction. The New Zealand Upgrade Programme is a $6.8 billion investment to get our cities moving, to save lives and boost productivity in growth areas. The first Auckland ... More>>

Reserve Bank: RBNZ Seeks To Preserve Benefits Of Cash

The Reserve Bank – Te Pūtea Matua is taking on a new role of steward of the cash system “to preserve the benefits of cash for all who need them”, Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby told the Royal Numismatics Society of New Zealand annual conference ... More>>


Economy: Double-Dip Recession Next Year, But Housing Rolls On

New Zealand's economy is expected to slip back into recession early next year as delayed job losses, falling consumer spending, and the absence of international tourists bites into growth. More>>


Microsoft New Zealand: Microsoft Expands “Highway To A Hundred Unicorns” Initiative To Support Startups In Asia Pacific

New Zealand, 14 October 2020 – Today Microsoft for Startups launches the Highway to a Hundred Unicorns initiative in Asia Pacific to strengthen the region’s startup ecosystem. This follows the initiative’s success in India, where 56 startups were ... More>>

Fonterra: Farmers Taking Another Step Towards New Zealand’s Low Emissions Food Production

They’re hot off the press and intended to help take the heat out of climate change. Fonterra farmers are already among the world’s most sustainable producers of milk and now have an additional tool in their sustainability toolbox. Over the last few ... More>>


Courts: Businessman Eric Watson Sentenced To A Four-Month Jail Term

New Zealand businessman Eric Watson has been sentenced to a four-month jail term in the UK for contempt of court, TVNZ reports. More>>

OECD: Area Employment Rate Falls By 4.0 Percentage Points, To 64.6% In Second Quarter Of 2020

The OECD area employment rate – the share of the working-age population with jobs – fell by 4.0 percentage points, to 64.6%, in the second quarter of 2020, its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2010. Across the OECD area, 560 million persons ... More>>

Spark: Turns On 5G In Auckland And Offers A Glimpse Into The Future Of Smart Cities

Spark turned on 5G in downtown Auckland today and has partnered with Auckland Transport (AT) to showcase some of the latest in IoT (Internet of Things) technology and demonstrate what the future could look like for Auckland’s CBD with the power of 5G. 5G is ... More>>

Stats NZ: Monthly Migration Remains Low

Since the border closed in late-March 2020, net migration has averaged about 300 a month, Stats NZ said today. In the five months from April to August 2020, overall net migration was provisionally estimated at 1,700. This was made up of a net gain ... More>>

University of Canterbury: Proglacial Lakes Are Accelerating Glacier Ice Loss

Lake Tasman, New Zealand | 2016 | Photo: Dr Jenna Sutherland Meltwater lakes that form at glacier margins cause ice to recede much further and faster compared to glaciers that terminate on land, according to a new study. But the effects of these glacial ... More>>


Dairy: Fonterra Sells China Farms

Fonterra has agreed to sell its China farms for a total of $555 million (RMB 2.5 billion*1), after successfully developing the farms alongside local partners. Inner Mongolia Natural Dairy Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of China Youran Dairy Group Limited ... More>>