3D-Printed Magnetic Structures

New 3D-printing technique helped engineers create magnetic structures capable of moving with a wave of a magnet. The magnetic structures can wrinkle, squeeze themselves and even crawl, roll, jump and snap close to catch a rolling ball. Among the many new soft devices being created and designed to shape-shift or move, these 3D-printed magnetic structures look alive.

3D-Printable Ink

MIT researchers developed a new 3D-printable ink infused with magnetic particles. The nozzle of the 3D-printer was fitted with an electromagnet. As the ink is dispensed, the electromagnet causes the magnetic particles to swing into the desired orientation. The published article Magnetic 3D-printed structures crawl, roll, and jump, mentions, “by controlling the magnetic orientation of individual sections in the structure, the researchers can produce structures and devices that can almost instantaneously shift into intricate formations, and even move about, as the various sections respond to an external magnetic field.”

The different orientation of magnetic particles allows each section of the structure to respond in a distinct way when exposed to an external magnetic field. The design of the model predicts the way the overall structure will deform and move. Unlike other soft robotics that need to be connected to a source of energy or pumps, these magnetic structures can be controlled remotely.

Xuanhe Zhao, the Noyce Career Development Professor in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, says this new technique can have applications on biomedicine. Among the magnetic structures they created are, a ring that wrinkles up, a long tube that squeezes shut, a sheet that folds itself, and a spider-like “grabber” that can crawl, roll, jump, and catch a passing ball.

Similar Research

Other researchers like the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems also created a magnetic structure that can be controlled in the same way.
Other researches like 3D Biomimetic Magnetic Structures for Static Magnetic Field Stimulation of Osteogenesis, use magnetic structures for the stimulation of osteogenesis. This study focuses on bone regeneration through the stimulation of microstructures with static magnetic stimulation to enhance the bone regeneration and possible applications in bone tissue engineering.

Graphical abstract from research publication: 3D Biometric Magnetic Structures for Static Magnetic Field Stimulation of Osteogenesis.

Resources for Educators

  1. Science Daily article
  2. MIT News
  3. CrashCourse Biomedical and Industrial Engineering