A hackable, multi-functional, and modular extrusion 3D printer for soft materials

Published in Scientific Reports, 2022

Recommended citation: Lei, I.M., Sheng, Y., Lei, C.L., Leow, C., and Huang, Y.Y.S. (2022). "A hackable, multi-functional, and modular extrusion 3D printer for soft materials." arXiv. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-16008-6

Three-dimensional (3D) printing has emerged as a powerful tool for material, food, and life science research and development, where the technology’s democratization necessitates the advancement of open-source platforms. Herein, we developed a hackable, multi-functional, and modular extrusion 3D printer for soft materials, nicknamed Printer.HM. Multi-printhead modules are established based on a robotic arm for heterogeneous construct creation, where ink printability can be tuned by accessories such as heating and UV modules. Software associated with Printer.HM were designed to accept geometry inputs including computer-aided design models, coordinates, equations, and pictures, to create prints of distinct characteristics. Printer.HM could further perform versatile operations, such as liquid dispensing, non-planar printing, and pick-and-place of meso-objects. By ‘mix-and-match’ software and hardware settings, Printer.HM demonstrated printing of pH-responsive soft actuators, plant-based functional hydrogels, and organ macro-anatomical models. Integrating affordability and open design, we envisage the Printer.HM concept to widen open innovations for soft, biological, and sustainable material architectures.

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