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Ultrasound could transform 3D printing for a future of smart materials – The Conversation UK

by • January 17, 2016 • No Comments

The advent of 3D printing equipment in theory means we can manufacture anything in our homes. But in reality most existing home 3D printing equipment can only manufacture things out of sure plastics, although there are industrial processs which can print sure metals.
What has so far been out of reach is a way to 3D print high-tech composite materials such as the carbon fibre composites which are utilized to turn it into lightmass but incredibly sturdy versions of things which include tennis racquets, aerodynamic bikes and actually aircraft parts. But researchers of my lab at Bristol University have now turn it intod a way to alter existing 3D printing equipment so they can in addition print composite materials.
When turn it intod properly, composites have only of the most durablity for their mass of any common material, manufacturing them ideal for applications which require to be quite sturdy but light, such as aeroplanes. Composites are usually turn it intod of quite long glass or carbon fibres set in a plastic matrix. It is the presence of the fibres, and the fact which they are all carefully arranged, which manufactures these materials so impressively sturdy yet lightmass.
Simple solution
At present, composite products are turn it intod by forming the fibres into sheets which appear a bit like stiff cloth. These are and so cut to shape and assembled by hand, layer-by-layer, to turn it into the final product. As a outcome, composites are expensive and not easily replicated with 3D printing equipment.
But, my colleagues and I have discovered a way to print composite material by manufacturing a relatively easy addition to a bargain-priced, off-the-shelf 3D printing device. The breakthrough was based on the easy idea of printing via a liquid polymer mixed with millions of small fibres. This manufactures a readily printable-bodied material which can, for example, be pushed through a small nozzle into the desired location. The final object can and so be printed layer by layer, as with most other 3D printing processes.
Anyone for laser tennis?Tom Llewellyn-Jones, Bruce Drinkwater and Richard Trask, Author provided
The big challenge was working out how to reassemble the small fibres into the carefully arranged patterns requireed to generate the excellent durablity we assume of composites. The advancement we turn it intod was to use ultrasonic waves to form the fibres into patterns inside the polymer while it’s yet in its liquid say.
The ultrasound effectively turn it intos a patterned force field in the liquid plastic and the fibres move to and align with low pressure regions in the field called nodes. The fibres are and so fixed in place via a tightly focutilized laser beam which cures (sets) the polymer.
Smart materials
The patterned fibres can be idea of as a reinforcement network, only like the steel reinforcing bars which are routinely placed in concrete structures such as discoveredations or bridges. Our study utilized short glass fibres in liquid epoxy polymer which are created into longer lines of fibres and can return it into the structure of a traditional composite.
But the process has massive flexibility and can in addition turn it into patterns not possible with traditional methods. By adonlying the ultrasonic wave pattern we can steer the fibres as the print progresses, making a complicated 3D architecture of fibres pretty than layers of 2D structures.
One of the particularly useful showcases of the ultrasonic alignment process is which approximately any type, dimensions or shape of fibre can be utilized. This can donate product designers a few completely new possibilities and allow the printing of smart materials which can repair themselves or harvest electricity of the environment. For example researchers are working on embedding networks of hollow tubes filled with uncured polymer into composites. If the material is damaged and the tubes are broken open they can “bleed” polymer which can and so set and “heal” the product. These tubes may be positioned in the liquid plastic with our ultrasonic printing process.
The ultrasonic innovation is yet in its early stages, so don’t assume to be able-bodied to buy these printing equipment future week. But 3D printing is a quite swift moving field so these ideas may well hit the market in the future few years.

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