Purdue researchers 3D print explosive materials with custom inkjet printer

Specialists of Purdue University (USA) have developed a method of accurate and safe three-dimensional printing of energy materials, which include pyrotechnics and explosives.

Energy materials are not only used when you need to blow something up or arrange fireworks. They are often used in everyday life, for example, are necessary for the operation of airbags in cars. And the smaller the device, the higher the demand for the production of these materials.

Now, such materials can be manufactured using an inkjet 3D printer that prints fuel and oxidant along layers, creating a nanothermite, a metastable powder mixture.

According to Allison Murray, who created the prototype printer, the main problem was to find the right size and pattern of drops and develop an apparatus capable of delivering such drops. The result is a piezoelectric 3D inkjet printer that works exactly as needed, and can hold the nozzle stationary, moving the print platform to obtain the desired shape. The accuracy of its movement is 0.1 micron or one thousandth of the width of a human hair.

The resulting energy material reacts as quickly and powerfully as traditional termites, burning at a temperature of 2500 Kelvin with a loud shock wave.

Interest in 3D printing in general and the 3D print of explosives in particular is shown by the US military. The main advantage of this production is the speed that additive technologies provide. Explosives or details for drones are printed in less than 24 hours.

Image Credit: Purdue University Mechanical Engineering