Aug 5, 2016 | By Benedict

The University of Buffalo has included two 3D printing projects in its five-pronged, $100,000 SMART initiative, one of UB’s three Communities of Excellence. One project will explore the viability of 3D printing electronic devices; another will involve 3D printing graphene-based supercapacitors.

SMART directors (L-R) Kemper Lewis, Omar Khan and Kenneth English (Image: Douglas Levere)

The University of Buffalo last week unveiled the details of five research projects being carried out as part of its Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies (SMART) Community of Excellence. The projects, the first to be supported by SMART, will share $100,000 in seed grants—a fraction of the $9 million being invested in the three Communities of Excellence initiative, which has been established to encourage faculty and staff from multiple departments to tackle real-world problems through research.

“These projects meet the goals of SMART, which include innovative 3D printing technologies, reducing waste in consumer products, developing methods to construct buildings that last longer and are more sustainable, and exploring how robotic technologies can be used on construction sites to improve efficiency, accuracy and safety,” said Kemper Lewis, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UB and director of SMART. The five projects will cover various themes, from turning waste fibers into monocoque structures, to designing energy-efficient buildings, to using CEMEX to develop modern prototypes of corbelled structures. Two projects, however, will focus primarily on additive manufacturing technologies:

Elastomeric Balloon Based Transfer Printing of Conformal Sensors

This project will explore the possibility of 3D printing electronic components using modified additive manufacturing equipment. Researchers will test a novel advanced manufacturing technique called “elastomeric balloon transfer printing,” which uses 3D printing and curved “conformal sensors” to create new kinds of electronic device. Creating conformal sensors is an important goal for researchers because of the potentially wide scope of applications in which they could be used. To achieve this end, the researchers have devised a strategy to directly manufacture electronics on 3D curved surfaces by using an extremely deformable elastomeric balloon-type stamp. This stamp could, the researchers argue, be used to pick up electronics fabricated through traditional wafer technologies and print them onto 3D curved surfaces with high accuracy.

By employing their novel technique, the researchers hope produce seamlessly integrated 3D printed electronics while elucidating the novel elastomeric balloon transfer printing (EBTP) process. The researchers behind this project, Rahul Rai (MAE), Jongmin Shim (CSEE), Amjad Aref (CSEE), and Gary Dargush (MAE), believe that the technology could be used in biomedical devices, telecommunication, wearable electronics, conformal displays and stretchable circuit boards. During their research, they hope to answer the following questions: Can the EBTP process be used to manufacture 3D electronics? What are the interfacial interactions among the elastomeric balloon stamps, inks, and target surfaces? What are the factors required to ensure reliable 3D electronics manufacturing in the process? How can the new theoretical and numerical tools be developed to capture the multiphysics of balloon stamp/ink/receiver and concurrent deformation?

3D Printing Flexible Solid-State High-Energy-Density Graphene Supercapacitors

The other SMART project to explicitly deal with additive manufacturing technology is this next-generation energy storage endeavor from Chi Zhou (ISE, whose 3D printing of graphene aerogels we covered in February) and Gang Wu (CBE). Facing ever-increasing energy demands, researchers need to develop high-power energy storage systems. Conventional charge devices such as batteries can be bulky and heavy, and are therefore ill-suited to compact electronic devices which need to be thin, lightweight, and flexible. Supercapacitors, which have capacitance values much higher than other capacitors, are capable of storing and discharging energy particularly efficiently, and are thus considered extremely promising energy storage devices.

Graphene is generally considered a suitable material for supercapacitors, given the material’s unique electrical, thermal and mechanical properties. Graphene-based supercapacitors are, however, usually only able to be printed in 2D, limiting their applications. The two UB scientists will therefore explore the viability of using a special ice crystallization technique which could be used to create 3D printed graphene supercapacitors. The rheological properties and crystallization behavior will be studied so that the researchers can better understand the relation between printing performance and physical parameters. High-surface-area nitrogen-doped 3D graphene will be studied to further improve the performance of the 3D printed supercapacitors. The researchers believe this crystallization technique could revolutionize energy storage.

The SMART Community of Excellence is made up of researchers from UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, School of Architecture and Planning, School of Management, Graduate School of Education, and College of Arts and Sciences. Through SMART, the university is participating in a national effort to improve US manufacturing while strengthening its own ability to shape national policy and research agendas in the field of advanced manufacturing and design.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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