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Title: Novel support materials for jetting based additive manufacturing processes
Authors: Fahad, Muhammad
Keywords: Support material
Additive manufacturing
Jetting
Pluronic F-127
Methylcellulose
Thermal gel formation
Non-aqueous solvents
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: © Muhammad Fahad
Abstract: Inkjet printing (jetting) technology, due to its high speed of operation and accuracy, is utilised in Additive Manufacturing (AM) of three dimensional parts. Commercially available AM processes that use jetting technology include three dimensional printing (3DP by Z-Corporation), Polyjet (by Objet), Multi Jet Modelling (MJM by 3D Systems) and three dimensional printing by Solidscape. Apart from 3D Printing by Z-corporation, all the other jetting based processes require a support material to successfully build a part. The support material provides a base to facilitate the removal of the part from the build platform and it helps manufacturing of cavities, holes and overhanging features. These support materials present challenges in terms of their removability and reusability. This research is therefore, aimed towards finding a support material composition that can be used with jetting based AM processes. The support material should be easily removable either by melting or by dissolution and also, if possible, it should be reusable. AM processes often process materials with poor mechanical properties and therefore, the parts produced by these processes have limited functionality. In an attempt to obtain complex shaped, functional parts made of nylon (i.e. Polyamide 6), a new jetting based AM process is under research at Loughborough University. The process uses two different mixtures of caprolactam (i.e. the monomer used to produce polyamide). These mixtures are to be jetted using inkjet heads and subsequently polymerised into polyamide 6. Therefore, another aim of this research was to consider the support material s suitability for jetting of caprolactam. Two different polymers were researched which included Pluronic F-127 and methylcellulose (MC). Both these polymers are known for gel formation upon heating in aqueous solutions. Due to the inhibition of polymerisation of polyamide 6 by the presence of water, non-aqueous solvents such as ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and butylene glycol were studied. Since both F-127 and MC in the glycols mentioned above had not been studied before, all the compositions prepared and investigated in this report were novel. F-127 did not show gel formation in propylene and butylene glycol but formed a gel in ethylene glycol at a concentration of 25% (w/w) F-127. MC, on the other hand, showed gel formation upon cooling in all the three glycols at concentrations as low as 5% for ethylene glycol and 1% for both propylene and butylene glycol. These compositions were characterized using experimental techniques such as Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, hot stage microscopy, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). A mechanism of gelation for both F-127 and MC in glycols is presented based on the results of these characterisation techniques. Viscosity and surface tension measurements along with the texture analysis of selected compositions were also performed to evaluate their suitability for jetting. All these compositions, due to their water solubility and/or low melting temperatures (i.e. near 500C) present the advantage of ease of removal. Removal by melting at low temperatures can also provide reusability of these support materials and thus advantages such as reduction in build cost and environmental effect can be achieved.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/8253
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering)

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