Fantastic shapes can be made using 3-D printing, but for many applications the material used needs to be much stronger than what is currently available. This is something that chemists in Eindhoven are working on: “The material used by the current generation of 3-D printers is similar to spaghetti. We’re making spaghetti that sticks together like Velcro.”
“The research we are doing is somewhat generic, whereas in Maastricht it is more application based. That is evident from their presentations, which feature images of animals that have been cut open,” says Hans Heuts. His voice betrays a mild sense of horror, causing his colleague Rint Sijbesma to laugh out loud. Not a single drop of blood runs from their own research at the chemistry faculty of the Eindhoven University of Technology, even though it is ultimately applied in the 3-D printing of prosthetics and implants. There is an area where they and their Maastricht colleagues do have something in common, though: the groups of researchers are both developing new plastics and gels based on dynamic chemical bonds. These are chemical compounds in a substance that easily separate and yet easily rebond.