3D Printing hobbyists say that a considerable obstacle with 3D printed parts is that they are apt to weaknesses in the printing process. Missing and imperfect layers can cause prints to become weak or not stable. Instead, many more steps are needed to provide stable models, to present a potential project to industry for mass production.
Scientists at Texas A&M University have been working with Essentium, Inc. to investigate new technologies to conquer these dilemmas. They noticed that when using carbon nanotube technology with normal 3D printing; they could increase layer adhesion, diminishing the defects found at the end of the printing process.
The team implemented efficient layer bonding through the use of carbon nanotubes which are heated when a current is introduced into the process. The effect is like microwave heating the nanotubes thus binding the layers together.
David Staack an associate professor in the J. Mikey Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering collaborated with the team. His theory of generating charged beams of air particles became an essential part of the project. The experts adopted this plasma technology to heat the nanotube particles in the filament melting the layers together forming a part.
The only thing that even appears simular is injection molded parts. This new technology runs close to surpassing them. Before this, a part would be printed, and thus a mold created from that part. The part is then injection molded. As a result of this, research materials are being saved for other projects and implementation time of special projects is diminished by eliminating these extra steps.
We consider the study successful, creating parts that eclipse molded parts in the strength and reliability of those parts. While not available to the consumer, the hope is that this new technology will be implemented at some future point.