Light- and ink-based three-dimensional (3D) printing methods allow the rapid design and fabrication of materials without the need for expensive tooling, dies or lithographic masks. They have led to an era of manufacturing in which computers can control the fabrication of soft matter that has tunable mechanical, electrical and other functional properties. The expanding range of printable materials, coupled with the ability to programmably control their composition and architecture across various length scales, is driving innovation in myriad applications. This is illustrated by examples of biologically inspired composites, shape-morphing systems, soft sensors and robotics that only additive manufacturing can produce.
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We thank J. Raney, J. Muth and M. Skylar- Scott for their valuable insights, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
J.A.L. is a co-founder of Voxel8, Inc., a 3D-printing start-up company. J.A.L. and R.L.T. have filed patents on work related to the 3D printing of soft sensors and robots.
Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints.
Reviewer information Nature thanks B. Derby and D. Therriault for their contributions to the peer review of this work.
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Truby, R., Lewis, J. Printing soft matter in three dimensions. Nature 540, 371–378 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature21003
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