Machine-learning system accelerates discovery of new materials for 3D printing

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The growing popularity of 3D printing for manufacturing all sorts of items, from customized medical devices to affordable homes, has created more demand for new 3D printing materials designed for very specific uses. To cut down on the time it takes to discover these new materials, researchers at MIT have developed a data-driven process that uses machine learning to optimize new 3D printing materials with multiple characteristics, like toughness and compression strength. By streamlining materials development, the system lowers costs and lessens the environmental impact by reducing the amount of chemical waste. The machine learning algorithm could also spur innovation by suggesting unique chemical formulations that human intuition might miss. "Materials development is still very much a manual process. A chemist goes into a lab, mixes ingredients by hand, makes samples, tests them, and comes to a final formulation. But rather than having a chemist who can only do a couple of iterations over a span of days, our system can do hundreds of iterations over the same time span," says Mike Foshey, a mechanical engineer and project manager in the Computational Design and Fabrication Group (CDFG) of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and co-lead author of the paper.

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