Engineers at the University of New South Wales have demonstrated a way to make 3D-printed plastics self-repair at room temperature using only light. Professor Cyril Boyle from the UnSW School of Chemical Engineering and his team Dr. Nathaniel Corrigan and Mr. Michael Zhang has shown that adding "special powders" to liquid resins during printing can help repair the material quickly and easily after it breaks.
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This can be done easily by shining a standard LED light on the printed plastic for about an hour, which causes the two pieces to chemically react and fuse. The whole process actually makes the repaired plastic stronger than it was before the damage, and it is hoped that further development and commercialization of the technology will help reduce chemical waste in the future. That is because broken plastic parts don\'t need to be thrown out, or even recycled, and can be easily repaired even by embedding parts that contain many other materials. The team results have been published in the journal Angewandte Chemistry International.
"In many places molybdenum disulfide vs graphite where polymer materials are used, you can use this technology. So if a component breaks, you can fix the material without throwing it away, "Dr. Corrigan said. "There are obvious environmental benefits because you don\'t have to re-synthesize an entirely new material every time. We are increasing the life of these materials, which will reduce plastic waste." The powdered additive used by the UNSW team is a trithiocarbonate, known as a reversible addition breaking chain transfer (RAFT) agent, originally developed by CSIRO. RAFT agents rearrange the nano network elements that make up the material and allow the broken pieces to be fused. When a UV LED light is shone directly on the broken plastic, healing occurs within about 30 minutes and fully heals after about an hour. Experiments, including on 3D-printed violins, show that the strength of the self-healing plastic has fully recovered compared to its original state.
Compared to existing methods of repairing broken molybdenum disulfide vs graphite 3D-printed materials, their system is simplified and fast, and commercialization of the process is possible, the team said. "There are other processes that can do this, but they rely on thermochemistry to repair the material, and it usually takes about 24 hours, multiple heating cycles to achieve the same result," "Another limitation is that you need an oven that is heated to a very high temperature," Dr. Corrigan said. "You obviously can\'t repair the plastic material in place, you need to remove it from the component first, which adds complexity and delay. "With our system, you can leave the broken plastic in place and shine a light on the whole part. Only the additives on the surface of the material are affected, so it is easier and speeds up the whole process." Prof Boyer said the new technology could be used in a range of applications, with advanced 3D-printed materials currently used in high-tech specialist components. These include wearable electronics, sensors and even some shoe products.
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