Like A Hot Glue Gun
Inspired by how hot glue guns would leave long strands of glue after every squirt, researchers from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon developed a technique on how to 3D print hair, bristles, and other fibers that can be added to printed models. After some modifications to existing hardware and the development of custom software, the team was able to 3D print artificial hair.
The characteristics of those long strands produced when handling a hot glue gun depends on the type of glue, the temperature, the amount being dispensed, and how fast the glue was being dispensed. Similar principles were used in printing the fibers, which was done sideways laying on the machine’s bed.
The process is easily integrated into existing 3D printing workflows. Users can specific regions on their model where the fibers should be incorporated. The fibers can be strong and rigid for use as bristles on a broom, or thin and flexible enough to be cut, curled, and even braided like human hair. It takes a long process to create enough fibers to make an entire toupee or wig, though, and consumer-level printers are far from foolproof. A single mistake could destroy hundreds of strands, and even more hours of work.
This technique could provide new ways to 3D print complete devices, make flexible joints, improve how electronics and wiring are produced, and of course make home-made wigs.