In a research paper, scientists at the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology developed a technique to 3D print colored objects using SLS printers.

Before going further, let’s remind that despite the potential of 3D printing, one of its limitations remains the ability to print in full and detailed colour. Indeed, SLS and SLA are part of the 3D Printing technologies that do not allow a direct printing in colour.

According to this research, by mixing polymer powders with commercial inks, it is possible to obtain on-demand 3D colour printing using inkjet-based methods by introducing nano materials.

History shows that photothermal sensitizers have been more and more used over time to facilitate the sintering of polymer powders. However, in order to reduce the energy demand, photosensitizers have been added to the polymer powders. Materials such as carbon nanotubes, carbon black and graphene are more efficient to transfer heat to polymers and allow the use of lower-power lasers.

The only thing is that these photosensitizers only enabled the production of gray or black printed objects.

To create white or colorful prints with this method, visibly transparent equivalents are needed. Here, we address this problem by designing resonant photothermal sensitizers made of plasmonic nanoparticles that strongly absorb in the near-infrared, while only minimally interacting with visible light,” the researchers said.

Photos via American Chemical Society

Our results open a new route to utilize plasmonic nanoparticles to produce colorful and functional 3D-printed objects,” the researchers explained.

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