3D Printed Magnets Are Here To Help Scientists
Conventionally, magnets are made using an injection molding process. The whole process is fine as long you need to manufacture enough of magnets to justify building a mold. However, scientists often require only a few in particular shapes for research or sensors. Thanks to a team at Vienna University of Technology, 3D printed magnets are a reality now and can be created in any shape with varying strengths.
This demands the question that why would anyone want a magnet that is unusually shaped? The answer lies in the statement from project leader Dr. Dieter Süss; “The strength of a magnetic field is not the only factor. We often require special magnetic fields, with field lines arranged in a very specific way – such as a magnetic field that is relatively constant in one direction, but which varies in strength in another direction.”
Let’s say you need such a 3D printed magnet. You begin by creating a digital model on a computer. This model is then fed into a 3D printer that starts 3D printing the magnet up layer by layer. The printer doesn’t make use of a polymer directly but rather heats and ejects a mixture of 90% magnetic micro granulate filaments and 10% polymer binder. Granulate is used in an un-magnetized state and therefore the final 3D printed magnet has to be exposed to a strong magnetic field for it to become a permanent magnet.
3D printed magnet offers a number of possibilities. The possibilities are not limited to shape only. You can include different sorts of magnetic materials in one magnet. This implies that a single 3D printed magnet could offer both strong and weak magnetism. While this may not seem like much, for scientists this is a breakthrough that will allow them to tinker with magnetism even more.
A paper on this particular research of 3D printed magnets was published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.