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3D-Printed Machine Metamaterials Work Like DNA

The order of each 3D-printed block encodes the metacube's functionality.

Researchers have found a way to intricately predetermine the outcome of a compressed 3D printed cube. So what did they do with it? They made a smiley face.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University, AMOLF and Leiden University have developed mechanical metamaterials that can change into any uniquely complex or predefined shape. They call them machine materials.

So how do they do this? They started with a series of flexible building blocks that change shape when you applied pressure. They then developed a new design principle that enabled them to program the material's behavior by carefully designing its spatial structure.

The researchers actually compare the cubes to DNA, because the order of each block encodes the metacube's functionality. Once the metacube has been designed, they 3D print the cube to make sure everything checks out. Plus, it’s squishy, so it also doubles for an extremely expensive, but pleasant stress ball.

Initially, the materials could be used to create more comfortable prosthetics and other wearable tech, but the researchers also think that it’s a good fit for sensing and actuation applications for soft robotics. They have even speculated the possibility of making the materials reprogrammable materials, so they could take that cube’s frown and turn it upside down.

This is IEN Now.

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