Dec 8, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology have demonstrated the ability to 3D print nature-inspired composite materials with gyroid structures. The researchers used an Objet260 Connex 3D printer to fabricate the materials.

Discovered by NASA scientist Alan Schoen in 1970, gyroids are infinitely connected triply periodic minimal surfaces that contain no straight lines. They can be found in nature—in block copolymers, for example—and have even been used in the world of 3D printing to fabricate strong materials.

Back in January, researchers at MIT 3D printed ultra-strong graphene structures using gyroid shapes, claiming that these structures could be 10 times stronger than steel. That research appeared to spark an interest in 3D printed gyroids, and the topic remains of great interest to material scientists.

Researchers’ from Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology have now grabbed a piece of the gyroid action, 3D printing a range of gyroidal composite structures with an industrial PolyJet 3D printer.

The researchers’ co-continuous gyroidal composites consist of a rigid skin or shell embracing a soft core, based on a gyroid’s triply periodic minimal surfaces (TPMS). These surfaces, which are of particular interest to tissue engineering researchers, divide space into two or more entangled labyrinthine sections containing no enfolded voids.

What this means is that researchers can use a 3D printer to interweave two separate materials into a gyroidal composite. The hope of the Masdar scientists was for the composite materials to take on the positive mechanical properties of both constituent materials, resulting in a composite mechanically superior to either.

Two-part composition of the Masdar Institute's 3D printed gyroidal composites

A newly published research paper suggests the scientists have achieved their goal. Using an Objet260 Connex 3D printer from Stratasys, the Masdar researchers put together what they call a “one-step” process for the direct 3D printing of nature-inspired polymeric co-continuous cellular composites. Their chosen materials? Commercially available Stratasys PolyJet materials VeroWhite and TangoGray.

When the researchers—Oraib Al-Ketan, Ahmad Soliman, Ayesha M. AlQubaisi, and Rashid K. Abu Al-Rub—had 3D printed a range of these gyroidal composites (different densities, different proportions of VeroWhite to TangoGray) using the two base materials, they tested the materials with compression apparatus, using the findings of these experiments to deduce the materials’ mechanical properties. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to measure the quality of 3D printing and characterize the fracture behavior of the tested samples.

The results of the study, which have been published in Advanced Engineering Materials, confirm the researchers’ hypotheses: a range of mechanical properties could be obtained by varying the composition of the cellular co-composite before 3D printing. And perhaps most importantly, the process of combining the two 3D printing materials resulted in toughness values well above what can be obtained by 3D printing the base materials individually.

Toughness values of base materials and composites of differing densities

A structure made from 100% VeroWhite, for example, fails at 10% strain. However, some of the more ductile composites could be subject to up to 60% strain before densification or failure occurred.

The study could have implications for the world of engineering. According to the Masdar researchers, the 3D printing research shows that it is possible to control the spatial composition of a gyroidal cellular composite, which means engineers would be able to optimize the physical properties of the materials, fine-tuning them to serve specific engineering applications.

The researchers also point out that such composites could be made with a wide variety of 3D printing materials beyond VeroWhite and TangoGray, suggesting that various combinations of 3D printing materials could result in greater design freedom for the creation of application-specific functional composites.

The research, “Nature-Inspired Lightweight Cellular Co-Continuous Composites with Architected Periodic Gyroidal Structures,” can be read here.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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