Abstract

In the past recent years, numerous studies have been conducted on additive manufacturing of thermosets and thermoset composites. Thermosets are an important class of polymers used in engineering applications. Monomer units in these material systems irreversibly cross-link when external stimuli or a chemical crosslinking agent is applied in terms of the curing or photopolymerization process. Thermally curing thermosets mark unique mechanical properties including, high temperature resistance, strong chemical bond, and structural integrity and therefore these materials find wide range of applications currently. However, direct write additive manufacturing of these material systems at high resolution and at complex geometries is challenging. This is due to the slow curing rate of thermally curing thermoset polymers which can adversely affect the printing process, and the final shape of the printed object. On the other hand, VAT Polymerization additive manufacturing, which is based on curing the photopolymer resin by Ultraviolet (UV) light, can allow the fabrication of complex geometries and excellent surface finish of the printed parts due to the fast curing rate of photopolymers used in this technique. Mechanical properties of photopolymers, however, are usually weaker and more unstable compared to the thermally curing polymers used in the direct write additive manufacturing method. Therefore, this study focuses on taking the advantages of these two thermoset additive manufacturing methods by utilizing both the thermally cured epoxy and photopolymer resins together. Using the direct writing, the resin mixture is extruded though a nozzle and the final 3D object is created on the print bed. Simultaneously, the deposited ink is exposed to the UV light enhancing the yield strength of the printed material and partially curing it. Therefore, thermally cured epoxy is used to obtain the desirable mechanical properties, while the addition of the photopolymer resin allows the thermoset mixture to partially solidify the printed ink when exposed to the UV light. The results achieved in this study showed that, the hybrid additive manufacturing technology is capable of fabricating complex and tall structure which cannot be printable via additive manufacturing method. In addition, mechanical properties of the hybrid thermoset ink are comparable to the thermally cured thermoset polymer indicating the great potential of the light-assisted, hybrid manufacturing to fabricate mechanically strong parts at high geometrical resolution.

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