A team including researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania has opened up new pathways to 3D print short-fiber-reinforced materials with precisely controlled fiber arrangements.
Currently, 3D printing methods for polymer composites build parts by extruding materials through a nozzle that simply moves back and forth in a series of lines to define the desired shape.
The team’s advance adds precisely controlled rotation of the nozzle to the mix to allow variation of the fiber arrangement throughout the printing process. The new process, called rotational 3D printing, results in unique helical fiber arrangements that provide superior damage resistance to printed materials.
A critical aspect of their work—the ability to control where the strongest and weakest points are located—was inspired by one of nature’s recent viral video stars, the mantis shrimp.