Three-dimensional (3D) printing technology has evolved tremendously over the last decade to the point where it is now viable for mass production in industrial settings. Also known as “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing allows one to create arbitrarily complex 3D objects directly from their raw materials. In fused filament fabrication, the most popular 3D printing process, a plastic or metal is melted and extruded through a small nozzle by a printer head and then immediately solidifies and fuses with the rest of the piece. However, because the melting points of plastics and metals are very different, this technology has been limited to creating objects of either metal or plastic only — until now.
In a recent study published in Additive Manufacturing, scientists from Waseda University, Japan, developed a new hybrid technique that can produce 3D objects made of both metal and plastic. Professor Shinjiro Umezu, who led the study, explains