The real hindrance in using 3D printing technologies in more fields is material science. Materials structures suitable for use in specific domains are still being developed. One leap that will encourage 3D printing technology use in aerospace and defense the successful development of Zeolite based materials. These materials can be used to print structures that are incredibly strong and load-bearing.
Recent research published by researchers at Cornell university details the development of Zeolite-templated 3D printed carbon nanotube networks with enhanced mechanical properties. The research is inspired by the need for applications of materials technology in aerospace and defense where high load-bearing architectures are often required
Nature is incredibly good at making stable and strong structures. Turning to nature for inspiration, the team worked at replicating microporous minerals like zeolite.
The use of composites was essential here, additives that can change and enhance material structures to make them fit for application in otherwise unusable circumstances.
“In spite of numerous successful biomimicry cases, its broad approach is difficult due to extreme structural complexity and the limitation imposed by material properties,” state the authors. “A simpler and desirable approach would be to combine easy processable but retaining structural complexity, especially for enhanced load-bearing applications.”
The research team used a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printer, with commercial-grade, solid Polylactic Acid or PLA material, one of the most popular 3D printing materials, to create zeolite-template carbon nanotube nets (CNTnets) structures as samples for the study. To create the CNTnets, however, the researchers first had to make junctions between the CNTs, completed as they placed two CNTs within nearly BEA channels, and then added non-bonded carbon atoms. Structures were printed using a Flashforge Adventurer 3, with the extruder heated to 210˚C and the heated bed set at 50˚C.
The study found out that, porosity which is an inherent property of the template structure, affected the elastic regimes which were shorter in less porous samples, requiring more force to create a deformation hence attaining the plastic ‘regime’ of the intended structure.
Overall, results showed that the structures 3D printed by the researchers for this study were successfully fabricated as they were able to reach the intended goal of bearing the high compressive loads without giving into failure structurally.
“There is a good qualitative agreement for the mechanical behavior of the atomic models and the corresponding 3D printed macro-scale ones,” stated the researchers. “Some of the discrepancies are due to the intrinsic 3D printed layer-by-layer process.”