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New hybrid 3D printing technique will add a fourth dimension to additive manufacturing

A new chemical process for additive manufacturing suggests exciting possibilities for 4D printed components – such as properties that change over time.

Researchers at Loughborough University have developed a hybrid method called Material Treatment Extrusion Additive Manufacturing (MaTrEx-AM), which uses acetone to toughen targeted layers of 3D printed parts and structures.

Varying how much acetone is applied and where it is used allows manufacturers to create items with novel mechanical properties, such controlling how parts deform.

The ability to create these time-dependent gives the printing process a 4D aspect.

Real-world applications include 4D lattices for helmet padding to avoid impact injuries and for biomedical implants.

Dr Andy Gleadall said: “The process adds material layer-by-layer – there are grooves between the layers, a bit like you’d see if you stacked lot of logs sideways on top of one another, all lined up.

“3D printed parts are often weak because of the way layers are laid down in sequence, so there are geometric defects between the layers and the bonding of material between layers may not be as good as the pure polymer

“The new capabilities are potentially valuable for a huge range of parts and structures, but perhaps most obvious ones would be parts that deform during operation and the way in which they deform needs to be controlled.

“The time-dependent nature of mechanical properties means the approach adds a new dimension to material capabilities, with in-situ hybrid processing facilitating a true 4D printing process.”

The research, MaTrEx-AM: a new hybrid additive manufacturing process to selectively control mechanical properties, was published in the journal, Additive Manufacturing.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 21/212

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.
Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes
The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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