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A group at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Empa, is investigating ways to 3D print cellulose. As the most abundant organic polymer in the world, the material is sustainable, and biocompatible, presenting great potential for medical research.
Recent progress made at Empa demonstrates how to 3D print cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) as a material reinforcement. Experimentation also shows how to tune the orientations of these CNC “building blocks” to achieve different properties in a finished object.
Addition - Advancements - Team - Field - Interest
In addition to advancements for the team’s specific field of interest, the research findings, as stated in the abstract of a study about the method:
“OFFER POWERFUL QUANTITATIVE GUIDELINES FOR THE DIGITAL MANUFACTURING OF COMPOSITE MATERIALS WITH PROGRAMMED PARTICLE ORIENTATIONS AND PROPERTIES.”
CNC - Inks - Printing - Part - Empa
CNC inks for 3D printing were developed as part of previous Empa project in 2017. At this stage of development, the team critically identified the anisotropic properties of the ink which was an important step forward to rending the material suitable for biomedical applications.
In an effort to better understand the alignment of these anisotropic CNC particles, the Empa team has now studied the affects of sheer stress applied to the ink when extruded. The method under study is direct ink writing, achieved at Empa through the use of an EnvisionTec Bioplotter.
Particle - Alignment
How to achieve particle alignment
CNC particle alignment in the 3D printer ink is observed by the team through the use of in situ polarization rheology. Placed in a rheometer, the ink is exposed to a steady sheer rate. Then, using a polarizer, optical images are taken of the mixture showing how the particles align over time.
Observation - Team - Level - Particle - Alignment
Through observation, the team discovered that, “The level of particle alignment achieved through extrusion-based 3D printing of cellulose containing inks can be varied widely depending on the rheological properties of the ink and the type of flow...
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