Oct 4, 2018

Researchers at USA's Purdue University have 3D printed cement paste, an ingredient of the concrete and mortar used to build various infrastructure elements, that gets tougher under pressure. The researchers claim that the technique could contribute to the building of resilient structures, that can withstand the negative impacts of natural disasters like earthquakes and wildfires.

"Nature has to deal with weaknesses to survive, so we are using the 'built-in' weaknesses of cement-based materials to increase their toughness," said Jan Olek, a professor in Purdue's Lyles School of Civil Engineering.

It is thought that the reseachers' work could lead to the creation of more damage and flaw-tolerant structural elements like beams or columns.

The 3D printing technique takes its inspiration from arthropod shells to control how damage spreads between the printed layers of a material, like trying to break a bunch of uncooked spaghetti noodles as opposed to a single noodle.

"The exoskeletons of arthropods have crack propagation and toughening mechanisms that we can reproduce in 3D-printed cement paste," said Pablo Zavattieri, Purdue professor of civil engineering.

3D-printed cement-based materials – such as cement paste, mortar and concrete – would give engineers more control over design and performance, but technicalities have stood in the way of scaling them up.

“3D printing has removed the need for creating a mould for each type of design, so that we can achieve these unique properties of cement-based materials that were not possible before,” said Jeffrey Youngblood, Purdue professor of materials engineering.

The team is also using micro-CT scans to better understand the behaviour of hardened 3D printed cement-based materials and take advantage of their weak characteristics, such as pore regions found at the “interfaces” between the printed layers, which promote cracking.

This finding was recently presented at the 1st RILEM International Conference on Concrete and Digital Fabrication.

Some of the bioinspired cement paste elements 3D printed by the group included so-called “honeycomb,” “compliant” and “Bouligand” architectures, which allowed them to engineer specific properties once hardened.  The Bouligand architecture, for example, takes advantage of weak interfaces to make a material more crack-resistant, whereas the compliant architecture makes cement-based elements act like a spring, even though they are made of brittle material.

The team now plans to explore other ways that cement-based elements could be designed for building more resilient structures.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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