Elastomeric structures show a lot of interest in different research fields such as soft robotics, flexible electronics, and smart biomedical devices which require soft and deformable material properties. However, to date, the most widely used materials are silicon rubber based for e.g. PDMS. The fabrication methods using these materials are limited to traditional ways, such as cutting, molding and casting, thus constrains the design freedom and geometric complexity. In order to enrich the design and fabrication flexibility, researchers attempted to use 3D printing techniques, especially the UV curing based 3D printing techniques, to fabricate elastomeric 3D objects. Nevertheless, most of the commercially available UV curable thus 3D printable elastomers break at less than 200 %, which is insufficient to many applications.
In the recent publication published in the prestigious journal Advanced Materials, researchers from the group of Prof. Shlomo Magdassi, led by Dr. Dinesh Patel and Dr. Michael Layani showed the development of a family of highly stretchable and UV curable (SUV) elastomers that can be stretched by up to 1100%, and are suitable to Digital Light Processing (DLP) and other UV curing based 3D printing techniques. This enabled the researchers to print diverse structures such as a deformable 3D isotropic truss, a deformable 3D negative Poisson’s ratio structure, 3D printed soft actuators and stretchable grippers activated by pressure, Bucky ball electronic switches, and even a 3D printed balloon, which demonstrate the ink's elastomer advantage of high stretchability and compatibility with DLP printing technique. The research was performed in collaboration with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). We believe the SUV elastomers will significantly enhance the capability of the UV curing based 3D printing of fabricating soft and deformable 3D structures and devices including soft actuators and robots, flexible electronics, acoustic metamaterials, and many other applications.