3D printing, at its heart, is simply the creation of 3D objects directly from their raw materials. Also known as “additive manufacturing,” the process involves the melting of raw materials, either a plastic or a metal, followed by layer-by-layer pasting, which then solidifies to form the desired 3D object.

3D printing opens up vast possibilities of production and creativity. Yet, there has remained a gap to be bridged—the possibility of combining plastic and metal together to create 3D hybrid metal–plastic structures. This is primarily due to the vastly different melting temperatures of plastics and metals that makes it impossible to combine them as raw materials for the same printer. 3D printing, therefore, has been largely limited to working with either plastic or metal but not both together.

While a standard procedure to plate metal over 3D plastic does exist, the coating is usually of poor quality and involves the use of toxic chemicals, thus making the process environmentally hazardous. With growing demand for 3D metal-coated plastic structures in the market, it is therefore imperative to come up with a better solution to metalizing 3D-printed plastic.

In a recent study published in Additive Manufacturing, a team of multi-disciplinary researchers from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, developed a novel hybrid technique to produce “metallized” plastic workpieces.

In order to find out more about the hybrid 3D printing method, its future scope and how it improves upon the existing technology, an interview was conducted with two of the authors in the study, Provost’s Chair Prof. Hirotaka Sato from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Prof. Shinjiro Umezu from Waseda University, Japan.

This article appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of Reinforced Plastics. Log in to access your free materialstoday.com article.

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