Sweeney began working with 3-D printed materials while employed at the Army Research Laboratory at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.
"I was able to see the amazing potential of the technology, such as the way it sped up our manufacturing times and enabled our CAD designs to come to life in a matter of hours," Sweeney said. "Unfortunately, we always knew those parts were not really strong enough to survive in a real-world application."
Objects - Layers - Materials - Plastics - Top
3-D printed objects are comprised of many thin layers of materials, usually plastics, deposited on top of each other to form a desired shape. These layers are prone to fracturing, causing issues with the durability and reliability of the part when used in a real-world application, for example a custom printed medical device.
"I knew that nearly the entire industry was facing this problem," Sweeney said. "Currently, prototype parts can be 3-D printed to see if something will fit in a certain design, but they cannot actually be used for a purpose beyond that."
Sweeney - Doctorate - Green - Department - Chemical
When Sweeney started his doctorate, he was working with Green in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas Tech University. Green had been collaborating with Dr. Mohammad Saed, assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at Texas Tech, on a project to detect carbon nanotubes using microwaves. The trio crafted an idea to use carbon nanotubes in 3-D printed parts, coupled with microwave energy to weld the layers of parts together.
"The basic idea is that a 3-D part cannot simply be stuck into an oven to weld it together because it is plastic and...
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