- Sep 20, 2018-

Wood and spider silk inspired the development of a new type of desktop 3D printing material that is said to outperform"state-of-the-art printed polymers".Developed by a team of researchers at the federal institute of technology in Zurich, Switzerland, the biomaterial contains liquid crystal polymer (LCP) particles that rival glass and carbon fiber reinforced materials.

A more sustainable alternative to carbon fibers

Although glass fiber and carbon fiber are commonly used for reinforcement, their high stiffness will make the material brittle.Recycling of fiber-reinforced polymers is also difficult. Looking for a stronger and ecological alternative to these additives, the Complex Materials and Soft Materials groups at ETH Zürich turned to LCPs.

Self-assembling strength 

In this latest research from ETH Zürich, the groups used an LCP as a feedstock for a commercially available FFF/FDM 3D printer.

Results of the study found that "By orienting the molecular domain to the print path, we were able to enhance the polymer structure according to the expected mechanical stresses, resulting in an order of magnitude more stiffness, strength and toughness than the most advanced 3d printed polymers."

Ease of adoption and recycle rate

In terms of sustainability, the team hypothesizes that the LCP 3D printer material could be potentially recyclable as hydrolysis is used to break down the polymer into processable fragments.

Samples of 3D printed LCP. Photo via ETH Zürich.

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