If you think of liquid crystals, you are probably thinking of display technology. However, the researchers found a way to use an inkjet-like process to 3D print iridescent colors using a liquid crystal elastomer. The process can mimic the iridescent coloring found in nature and can have applications in things as diverse as anti-theft labels, works of art, or materials with very special optical properties.
For example, an item created by the team is an arrow that only appears totally green when viewed from a certain angle. The optical properties depend on the thickness of the material which, being crystalline, self-organizes. Controlling the deposition rate changes the thickness of the material, allowing the printer to adjust its optical properties.
The ink doesn’t seem too exotic to create, although the chemicals it contains are an alphabetical soup of unpronounceable organic compounds. At least they seemed available if you know where to buy exotic chemicals.
Iridescent coloring is common in nature, so art objects like butterfly wings look natural with this method. While inkjet printers aren’t common in the hacker community, they’re not that difficult to create, so it appears to be reproducible in a garage lab.
Liquid crystals have all kinds of interesting properties and we wonder if this material would help you print this stuff. If you want to experiment, we’ve seen a few pirated inkjet printers.
Thank you [jscotta] for the tip.