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3D Printed Foam Could Keep You Warmer and Safer for Longer

by • April 27, 2016 • No Comments

450px-LLNL-logoIt is effortless to get excited of the visible breakthroughs in 3D printing – the 3D printed medical devices, the architecture, the art. What we don’t ponder of as frequently are the seemingly mundane and unseen applications that 3D printing is in addition changing – but they’re only as significant. Foams, or cellular solids, are hidden equitewhere around us – in our walls, our cars, our electronics. They’re a significant component in insulation, shock absorbers, and flotation devices. Foams are excellent, frankly, and material scientists at Lawrence Liveradditional National Laboratory may have found a way to manufacture them actually advantageous through additive manufacturing.

Traditional foam manufacturing processes outcome in foams with non-uniform consistency, with the cells manufacturing up the material excellently varying in dimensions, shape, and connectivity. They yet assist their purposes, but the scientists in LLNL’s additive manufacturing lab have found that 3D printing can smooth out those issues and turn it into uniform foam structures. Sounds excellent – let’s use that instead! Not so swift – like anything else, the new foams have to be subjected to a number of tests preceding they can be marketed. Mostly, the scientists needed to assess the long-term mechanical stability of the foams – how well and how long can they hold up, especially when subjected to repeated stress like in shock-absorbing cushions?

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Microstructures of (L) traditionally manufactured foam and (R) 3D printed foam

Turns out they hold up certainly well. The research team conducted a series of accelerated aging experiments in that both the 3D printed foam and traditionally manufactured foam were subjected to high temperatures and constant compression to approximate the amount of stress the foams may endure over a course of several years. The foams were monitored over the course of a year or, in a few cases, longer. At the end of the test period, the researchers found that the 3D printed foam held up, mechanically and structurally, for longer than the traditional foam.

foamTo determine why the 3D printed foam was so much additional resilient, the scientists X-rayed both materials and found that the traditional, or stochastic, foam showed additional widely dispersed stress fractures than the 3D printed foam – unsurprising, thinking the stochastic foam’s varied consistency. The traditional foam’s many extreme areas of stress were in addition much higher than those of the 3D printed foam.

“3D printing of foams offers immense flexibility in creating programmable architectures, customizable shapes and tunable mechanical response,” said Amitesh Maiti, a computational physicist at LLNL and the lead author of the foam study. “Now that our work strongly indicates magnificent long-term stability and performance of the printed material, there is no reason not to consider replacing traditional foam with appropriately created 3D-printed foam in specific next applications.”

The full research paper, that you can read here, states that the work is not just about finished, yet.

“Finally, we may like to point out that that the outcomes presented here compares the aging of a stochastic foam with that of an AM foam of a quite specific architecture,” the paper concludes. “We acknowledge that there may be advantageous performing AM creations, which include other optimal 3D creations that we are yet to explore. Identifying and testing such novel micro-architectural creations is an area of next work.”