3D printing technology is used not only to build things as large as houses, but also as small as snowflakes. A new material allows the latter to be much stronger than ever before, and to be printed considerably faster. It consists of a polymer resin combined with tiny clumps of metal atoms, known as metal nanoclusters. When lattices printed from this particular material were tested, they were found to be capable of absorbing twice as much energy as lattices printed from other commonly used materials. As an added bonus, when the lattices were being printed, the metal nanoclusters allowed the chemical reaction to occur much quicker than it did in other materials that utilized different types of photosensitive molecules. This effect was noted even when a number of different polymers were used in the composite – in one case, when a protein-based polymer was used, items could be printed 100 times faster than had previously been possible with such polymers. “What we’ve done on top of that is develop a material that is really good at resisting forces, so it’s not just the 3D structure, but also the material that provides very good protection.”

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