Credit: Image courtesy of Vienna University of Technology
In October of this year Dieter Süss, who is the head of the Christian-Doppler Advanced Magnetic Sensing and Materials laboratory, and a research team of student engineers at Vienna University of Technology have developed a way to 3D print magnetic objects in virtually any shape imaginable. The design of the magnet is generated on a computer then is sent to a printer that uses filaments of magnetic micro granulate that is bonded by a polymer material, which basically means that the material is a mixture of a magnetic material and a plastic. Then the material gets heated up and is applied to the chosen positions using a nozzle. The material is printed without any type of magnetic charge to prevent any interference with the machine. However, after the initial printing is completed, the object is permanently magnified by being exposed to an external magnetic field.
The objects printed are designed with a certain geometric form on a computer to ensure the magnetic field requirements are met. When charged, these field lines manage whether or not the magnet will repel or attract other magnets. These field lines are generated on the computer before the printing process begins, allowing engineers to create highly specific magnets with varying degrees of strength. Not only is this new process fast and cost-effective, it also opens up new possibilities which would be inconceivable with other techniques: you can use different materials within a single magnet to create a smooth transition between strong and weak magnetism.
Vienna University of Technology. “3-D-printed magnets: How can you produce a magnet with exactly the right magnetic field? For the first time, magnets can be made with a 3-D printer.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2016.