Aligning molecular and structural dynamics in additive manufacturing of thermoplastics (VIDEO)

by Jules Harings, Maastricht University, Aachen Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials Additive manufacturing is a technology that develops rapidly as a niche within the field of discrete manufacturing. Unique products of high added value rely on customisation and nearly endless design flexibility and are progressively introduced in automotive, aerospace, art and medical industry.

Nevertheless, despite successes with metals and living materials, a mismatch in product quality and expectations has been the Achilles’ heel in the mass adoption of thermoplastics in 3D printing, especially in fused deposition modelling (FDM). In comparison to other, successful construction materials such as metals, the long nature of polymer molecules and the consequential entanglements are on one hand the origin of the praised mechanical properties that are accessible via melt shaping under relatively mild conditions, but tremendously reduce the time-scales of filament fusion, molecular mixing and crystallization on the other hand. Inadequate alignment of these chemically controlled time-scales with printing parameters are the cause of internal stresses, inferior (durable) mechanical properties in especially the build direction, and short- and long-term distortion in geometry (warping).

By means of controlled chemistry and advanced analytical techniques we will (i) highlight the relevant time-scales from molecular, structural as well as processing perspective, and (ii) its technical implications on enhancing ultimate thermoplastic performance.

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