Researchers created a new nano-ink with exceptional properties and many applications in aerospace, medicine and electronics.
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a more efficient and versatile approach than casting. This approach allows for high precision, less excess to cut away, and complex geometries to be realized. Moreover, adding two-dimensional nanomaterials such as CNTs, graphene, metal nanoparticles and quantum dots allows 3D-printed materials to adapt to external stimuli, giving them features such as electrical and thermal conductance, magnetism and electrochemical storage.
Mechanical engineering researchers at Michigan Technological University have created nanocomposite polymeric ink that uses carbon nanotubes (CNTs). This ink has potential to replace epoxies.
The researchers use polymer nanocomposites (made of epoxy, carbon nanotubes and nano-clay) and a printing process that doesn’t sacrifice functionality. The work is described in an article published in the journal Additive Manufacturing by Parisa Pour Shahid Saeed Abadi, an engineer who explores the interface of materials, mechanics and medicine, and graduate student Masoud Kasraie.
“The gap between the real-world applications of 3D printing and nanomaterials versus nanomaterial 3D printing needs to be closed,” Abadi said. “The gap exists due to lack of control of nanocomposite properties in the 3D-printing process, because we don’t fully understand the process-morphology-property relationship.”
According to the researchers, conductivity of the nanomaterial ink is an exceptionally handy trait that gives the printed epoxy the potential to double as electrical wiring—whether in a circuit board, an airplane’s wing or in 3D-printed actuators for guiding catheters in blood vessels. Another useful trait of the nanocomposite polymer ink is its strength.
“In comparison with steel and aluminum, we see 80% weight reduction with epoxy composite with the same strength,” Kasraie said.
Moreover, in the field of electronics and aerospace, defects and damages can cause major issues. The nanocomposites developed by the researchers can serve a safety function.
“When something breaks, a tiny crack starts from a microscale defect and progresses until it breaks the entire structure,” Abadi said. “Nanocomposite features make bridges in those cracks and don’t let the cracks grow. This is one of the mechanisms through which carbon nanotubes increase the mechanical strength of the material.”
The 3D-printed polymer nanocomposite ink, due its exceptional properties, can find applications in aerospace, medicine and electronics.