3D Printing Shape-Shifting Liquid Crystal

A new 3D-printing method from UC San Diego  could it easier to manufacture and control the shape of soft robots, artificial muscles, and wearable devices. By controlling the printing temperature of liquid crystal elastomer (LCE), the UC San Diego team shows that they can control the material’s degree of stiffness and degree of actuation. The researchers are also able to change the stiffness of different areas in the same material by exposing it to heat. A proof-of-concept LCE single print with a single ink has areas where stiffness and actuation vary greatly. One area of the LCE structure can be flexible, like tendons, while the other area can contract, like muscles.