April 20, 2017
April 20, 2017
April 22, 2017
Pacific Southwest Section
Fiber-reinforced composite materials enjoy widespread uses as structural materials in myriad of modern-day applications including airframes, high-performance vehicles, consumer sports equipment, biomedical prosthetics, and building construction. Despite years of fruitful progress in the materials aspect of composite materials, the still-heavy reliance on manual fabrication and the lack of automated composite-making techniques have kept composite materials from being a high-volume production materials-of-choice and from being easily made into complex shapes with consistent quality. To this end, three-dimensional printing of composite materials—a nascent and potentially game-changing composite manufacturing technology in its own right—offers an enabling technological solutions. The work presented here details a collaborative research effort between students and faculty of Canada College (Redwood City, CA) and San Francisco State University (SFSU, San Francisco, CA), supported by a Department of Education grant, in realizing 3D printing of short-fiber UV-curable polymer composite. Four Canada College students working alongside an SFSU student mentor, successfully designed, prototyped and commissioned an innovative extrusion mechanism capable of printing short-fiber infused polymer composites, at a single-line resolution of 0.5mm and in a consistent layer-by-layer fashion. The extrusion mechanism is capable of extruding UV-sensitive polymer that incorporates carbon fibers (7µm diameter, up to 0.1g) and cloisites nanoclay (up to 0.075g) per 1mL of the UV curable polymer, VorexTM. Various composite test specimens were printed for mechanical testing and for characterization using a scanning electron microscope. Results arising from this research point to: (i) mechanically robust short-fiber composites that are capable of being produced by direct 3D printing, and (ii) a remarkable dispersion of short carbon fibers in the polymer matrix, which displays relatively defect-free interfacial bonding. Through a 10-week theoretically grounded, hands on undergraduate research experience, the community college students were able to deepen their understanding of the mechanics and manufacturing of composite materials, starting from scratch and against a steep learning curve, via meaningful experimentations, relentless trouble-shooting, and constant consultation with suppliers and industry experts.
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