Stronger 3D Printed Parts
Welding of 3D Printed Carbon Nanotube-Polymer Composites
From aerospace and defense to digital dentistry and medical devices, 3D printed parts are used in a variety of industries. They are comprised of many thin layers of materials, plastics in this case, deposited on top of each other to form a desired shape. These layers are prone to fracturing, causing issues with the durability and reliability of the part when used in a real-world application, for example a custom printed medical device. That is why they are currently used only in the prototyping phase of materials or as a toy for display.Brandon Sweeney and his advisor Dr. Micah Green discovered a way to make 3-D printed parts stronger and immediately useful in real-world applications. Sweeney and Green applied the traditional welding concepts to bond the submillimeter layers in a 3-D printed part together, while in a microwave.
Brandon Sweeney, doctoral student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, and his advisor Dr. Micah Green discovered a way to make 3D printed parts stronger and immediately useful in real-world applications. Sweeney and Green applied the traditional welding concepts to bond the submillimeter layers in a 3D printed part together, while in a microwave.
When Sweeney started his doctorate, he was working with Green in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas Tech University. Green had been collaborating with Dr. Mohammad Saed, assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Texas Tech, on a project to detect carbon nanotubes using microwaves. The trio crafted an idea to use carbon nanotubes in 3D printed parts, coupled with microwave energy to weld the layers of parts together.
“What we do is take 3D printer filament and put a thin layer of our material, a carbon nanotube composite, on the outside,” Sweeney says. “When you print the parts out, that thin layer gets embedded at the interfaces of all the plastic strands. Then we stick it in a microwave, we use a bit more of a sophisticated microwave oven in this research, and monitor the temperature with an infrared camera.” The technology is patent-pending and licensed with a local company, Essentium Materials. The materials are produced in-house, where they also design the printer technology to incorporate the electromagnetic welding process into the 3D printer itself. While the part is being printed, they are welding it at the same time. They are currently in beta mode, but according to the researchers, this has the potential to be on every industrial and consumer 3D printer where strong parts are needed.
"Welding of 3D-printed carbon nanotube–polymer composites by locally induced microwave heating" , Science Advances, 14 Jun 2017
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