3D printing is a rapidly evolving technology that could potentially change the world like the internet did.

People are most familiar with 3-D printing due to the controversy surrounding 3D printed firearms. But the technology can be used to produce everything from tiny precision components to houses.

Now gold has a role to play in the evolution of 3D printing technology. Scientists at Vanderbilt University have developed a process using gold nanoparticles to reveal tiny defects in 3D printed parts. 

According to a report on 3DPrint.com, gold nanoparticles can be embedded inside 3D printing material. The nanoparticles show up as a deep maroon color under UV light, highlighting any defects in the printed object.

According to Professor Kane Jennings, small defects and missing print layers can compromise and weaken the structural integrity of 3D printed products, causing failure. These defects are difficult to detect with the naked eye. The gold nanoparticles help solve this problem.

“It’s similar to the gold in your ring, but it has very unique optical properties that don’t degrade over time,” said civil engineering graduate student and lead author Cole Brubaker. “This is one of the first applications using gold for defect detection. We are able to inspect and detect defects that aren’t visible to the naked eye, using the optical properties of embedded gold nanoparticles. That’s a very critical step – being able to say ‘We have a defect. It’s right here.’”

People in the 3D printing industry say being able to easily locate defects in 3D printed parts will save money, time, and materials. According to the researchers, the gold nanoparticle technology can be used for numerous other applications, as well.

“What really gets me excited is the broad range of applications we can use this technology for,” Brubaker said. “We’ve just scratched the surface.”

This is just one of many new applications for gold in the technology sector. The demand for gold in tech applications grew for the seventh consecutive quarter in Q2 2018. Over the past decade, the tech sector accounted for more than 380 tons of gold demand annually. That’s 13% ahead of central bank purchases during the same time period.

As we reported recently, demand for gold in the healthcare field is also growing quickly. And earlier this summer, researchers developed a gold nanoparticle that could open the door to improving the storage of solar energy.

Tech demand for both gold and silver will likely continue to increase over the next several decades. This could have a significant impact on overall demand for these precious metals. Silver demand has always been heavily influenced by industrial use, but gold is becoming more and more important in industry, especially in high tech applications.


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