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3-D printer creates supestrong material

The samples may look flimsy, but what engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have created with a special 3-D printer is something that mixes hard metal, tough ceramics and flexible plastics. The material is one-of-a-kind, lightweight and superstrong.

“It can hold more than 100,000 times its own weight. In fact, even more than that,” said Chris Spadaccini, a materials engineer at LLNL in California.

“One of the benefits of this methodology is the ability to work with a wide range of materials,” said Josh Kuntz, a materials engineer at LLNL.

“These are things that are generally not available in 3-D printing today,” Spadaccini said. The engineers create the materials with a sophisticated technology that creates 3-D parts layer by layer. “Wherever it gets hit by light, it hardens and forms a layer.”

The materials are so strong that they can remain stiff almost indefinitely and can hold up to at least 160,000 times their own weight.

“The connectivity is so high that the structure does not have an extra degree of freedom to bend under load,” said Xiaoyu Zheng, a materials engineer at LLNL.

The materials could someday be used in products such as automobiles, space vehicles and airplanes that require strong but lightweight parts.