Stimuli-responsive hydrogels exhibiting physical or chemical changes in response to environmental conditions have attracted growing attention for the past few decades. Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm), a temperature responsive hydrogel, has been extensively studied in various fields of science and engineering. However, manufacturing of PNIPAAm has been heavily relying on conventional methods such as molding and lithography techniques that are inherently limited to a two-dimensional (2D) space. Here we report the three-dimensional (3D) printing of PNIPAAm using a high-resolution digital additive manufacturing technique, projection micro-stereolithography (PμSL). Control of the temperature dependent deformation of 3D printed PNIPAAm is achieved by controlling manufacturing process parameters as well as polymer resin composition. Also demonstrated is a sequential deformation of a 3D printed PNIPAAm structure by selective incorporation of ionic monomer that shifts the swelling transition temperature of PNIPAAm. This fast, high resolution, and scalable 3D printing method for stimuli-responsive hydrogels may enable many new applications in diverse areas, including flexible sensors and actuators, bio-medical devices, and tissue engineering.
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