Chicago has caught the 3D printing bug. The city's public library just recently opened a maker space for citizens to experiment and create, and now its university is exploring what's possible in physics with the technology.
The Stratasys blog reports that Professor Heinrich Jaeger is working with his students at the University of Chicago to investigate jamming with 3D printers. For those who don't pay attention to the world of physics, jamming is a process in which materials change as they become more dense. This can lead to a variety of unique shapes and properties.
Now, Professor Jaeger is experimenting with jamming to create shaped objects that favor certain properties. For example, his work might include creating a shaped object that favors flexibility over other properties. The only problem with this approach is that you're limited to the shapes you already know. That all changed when 3D printers were introduced.
Now Jaeger and one of his graduate students - Marc Z. Miskin - have created an algorithm that looks through thousands of shapes to find the one that is most likely to fit their current need. They used to create these shapes by hand, but soon turned to 3D printers upon realizing that it would take too long to create thousands of precise, yet irregular, shapes in this way.
The University of Chicago's exploits are just the latest innovation in science that's been brought about by 3D printing. Just last week, researchers at North Carolina State University invented a liquid metal that can be used in 3D printers to create 3D printed electronics, or the T-1000.