Researchers 3D Print With Epoxy Composites to Mimic Material Properties of Balsa Wood
3D printing processes have been undertaken using materials such as thermo plastics and UV-curable resins, but now materials scientists from Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have teamed up with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to create a printable epoxy-based thermosetting resin. These epoxies allow for the printing of materials to be used as structural components in lightweight architecture. These new 3D inks are composed of epoxy resins combined with nanoclay platelets for enhanced viscosity and a dimethyl methylphosphonate compound. To this mixture two fillers are added, silicon carbine and carbon fibers.
The directionality of those fillers in the ink controls the versatility and strength of the printed material. This particular mixture creates a composite that is adjustable in terms of strength and toughness and that is approximately 200% stronger than the best printed polymer composites currently available. The description of the research was published in the article “3D-Printing of Lightweight Cellular Composites” in an issue of Advanced Materials co-authored by Brett Compton and Jennifer Lewis.
“This paper demonstrates, for the first time, 3D printing of honeycombs with fiber-reinforced cell walls. Of particular significance is the way that the fibers can be aligned, through control of the fiber aspect ration – the length relative to the diameter – and the nozzle diameter. This marks an important step forward in designing engineering materials that mimic wood.”
Why would it be important to be able to mimic wood in this way? After all, we already have wood, right?
A primary potential application for this ink is in the creation of structural honeycomb for use inside the blades of wind turbines. Currently, the insides of these blades are made using sandwiched construction materials, one of which is balsa wood. While balsa is a fast-growing tree that has been identified as a rapidly renewable resource, it does have grain variations that can make it difficult to make it meet the precise performance requirements set for such products. In addition, balsa wood is relatively expensive and as the length of the blades used in these wind turbines increases, even now there are some nearing 250 feet in length, the cost and need for precision grows as well. Using this ink and 3D extrusion printing techniques, the researchers have been able to create cellular composite materials that actually improve on balsa wood.
It’s not just wind turbines that may benefit from this new ink, as fuel efficiency requirements in the automotive industry have become stricter, a strong lightweight material such as this may be just what designers need to help their cars these requirements. Compton sees an exciting future made possible with this epoxy:
“As we gain additional levels of control in filler alignment and learn how to better integrate that orientation into component design, we can further optimize component design and improve materials efficiency. Eventually, we will be able to use 3D printing technology to change the degree of fiber filler alignment and local composition on the fly.”
Future research plans for the team include exploring thermosetting resins that have precisely aligned and blended fillers as potential materials for both their structural and conductive capabilities. What other uses could such a material have? Discuss this story in the 3D printed epoxy composite forum thread on 3DPB.com.[Source: Harvard]
You May Also Like
Make Your Own 3D Print Design with Expert Guidance
3DPrint.com’s Design Essentials for 3D Printing online crash-course starts October 23 with two live presentations from industry leaders. Over the course of the one-week, learn how to create 3D print-ready...
3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference: Finn Mast Project & Guest Speaker Dr. Byron Pipes
Recently, Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE software company, held its 3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the event in Novi, Michigan, and the first...
Coding for 3D Part 3: Tools of Choice
This is an in-depth article explaining the plan of attack for learning parametric design through code. I will be consulting various online resources as well as books to strengthen my knowledge base.
3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference: Keynote by Skunk Works & Executive Roundtable
Last week, Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE software company, held the 3DEXPERIENCE Modeling & Simulation Conference in Michigan. I was invited to attend the event, which was held from September 18-19...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.