3D Printing News Briefs, May 8, 2021: nTopology, Tohoku University, Washington State University

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We’re starting off today’s 3D Printing News Briefs with a software update, and then moving on to some research involving 3D printing. Keep on reading for all the details!

nTopology 3.0 3D Software Release

A pressure map drives the relative density of the lattice to generate a shoe sole with variable stiffness.

In September of 2020, 3D printing software startup nTopology raised $40 million in Series C funding to enhance its nTop Platform, now simply referred to as nTopology software. Now the company is announcing its third major software release—nTopology 3.0—which will change how users interact with the software, thanks to real-time visualization with GPU acceleration. This opt-in feature will give users a big performance boost when they’re trying to visualize workflows that feature complex, field-driven geometry, and the release also consolidates all of the minor improvements made to the software over the last few months, such as advanced design automation, topology optimization tools, expanded engineering simulation utilities, and functional latticing workflows.

“Through our patent-pending technology, nTopology can now utilize both the CPU and GPU of your system, unlocking a 10x to 100x performance increase. As a result, latticing, texturing, filleting, shelling, and other field-driven operations can now be previewed in real-time. Even the most complex designs are rebuilt in a few seconds,” the company explains in a blog post.

“With GPU acceleration enabled, you save 10 to 60 seconds every time you change a design parameter. Let’s say that you make 100 such changes a day — a reasonable assumption for a typical workflow. This translates to an average of 60 minutes of your time per day. Over a month, this accumulates to days of engineering design time saved.”

You can get more a technical review of nTopology 3.0 by checking out the release notes. Existing users can access all of these new functionalities by updating to the latest version of the software.

Research Paper: 3D Printed Proton Exchange Membrane

First 3D printed proton-conductive membrane paves way for tailored energy storage devices

A team of researchers from Tohoku University in Japan recently published a paper, titled “Direct Printable Proton-Conducting Nanocomposite Inks for All-Quasi-Solid-State Electrochemical Capacitors,” about their work creating a 3D printed proton-conductive exchange membrane, which is a vitally important part in fuel cells, batteries, and electrochemical capacitors. This means we’re just one step closer to custom solid-state energy devices, which could have major implications for on-demand smart wearables, electronic appliances, and more. The team synthesized functionalized nanoinks that can actually imbue parts with their own function—in this case conductivity. By mixing different ratios of inorganic silica nanoparticles with photo-curable resins and liquid that’s able to conduct protons, they created inks that could be used in a dispensing 3D printer and retain their properties even after they’ve been cured with UV light. They successfully tested the properties by creating an operational quasi-solid-state electrochemical capacitor that required assembling a 3D printed membrane between two carbon electron electrodes.

Kazuyuki Iwase, one of the paper’s co-author and assistant professor in Professor Itaru Honma’s group at the University’s Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials, said, “As we can freely choose the inorganic materials or resins for curing, we hypothesize that this technique can be applied to various types of quasi-solid-state energy conversion devices.

“Compared to conventional fabrication techniques, the ability to 3D print such devices opens up new possibilities for proton-conducting devices, such as shapes that can be adjusted to fit to the devices they power or that can be adapted to the personal needs of a patient wearing a smart medical device.”

AM Potential for UV-Curable Vitrimers of Vegetable Oil

Graphical abstract

Vegetable oil isn’t just for cooking anymore! A team of researchers from Washington State University were researching UV-curable resins based on acrylate or methacrylate monomers, which are mostly obtained from non-renewable petroleum feedstocks and, due to their stable cross-linked network, are difficult to both repair and reprocess. The team thought that perhaps, UV-curable, bio-based dimethacrylate compounds, synthesized with the help of vegetable oil, could be used instead, and recently published their results in a research paper titled “From Glassy Plastic to Ductile Elastomer: Vegetable Oil-Based UV-Curable Vitrimers and Their Potential Use in 3D Printing.”

The abstract states, “In this work, bio-based UV-curable dimethacrylate compounds are synthesized via reaction of the vegetable oil-derived dimer acid with glycidyl methacrylate. The length and flexibility of the chain segment between the two methacrylate groups are manipulated to tune the properties of the cross-linked polymer materials. The UV-cured materials exhibit a tensile strength of up to 9.2 MPa and an elongation at break of up to 66.4%. At elevated temperatures (>160 °C), the thermally induced dynamic transesterification reaction (DTER) between hydroxyl groups and ester bonds in the network structure provides repairability to the material. Use of the UV resin for three-dimensional (3D) printing is demonstrated. The printed objects exhibit unique welding and shape-changing properties owing to the thermally induced DTER. This work integrates the concepts of UV curing, vitrimer preparation, 3D printing, and bio-based polymers, demonstrating a feasible approach for the sustainable design of polymer materials.”

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