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DIMAP Report Summary

Project ID: 685937

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DIMAP (Novel nanoparticle enhanced Digital Materials for 3D Printing and their application shown for the robotic and electronic industry)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Additive manufacturing (AM) enables a new manufacturing paradigm, such as the rapid, distributive manufacture of complex objects. Additionally, it has the potential to reduce waste and to manufacture individual products anywhere in the world, and to customise each of them.
The DIMAP project focuses on the development of novel ink materials for 3D multi-material printing by PolyJet technology. We will advance the state-of-the art of AM through modifications of their fundamental material properties by mainly using nanoscale material enhanced inks. This widens the range of current available AM materials and implements functionalities in final objects. Therefore, applications will not be limited to rapid prototyping but can be used directly in production processes. DIMAP will show this transition in two selected application fields: the production soft robotic arms/ joints and customized luminaires. In order to cope with these new material classes the existing PolyJet technology is further developed and therefore improved. The DIMAP project targets at the following objectives: additive manufactured joints, additive manufactured luminaires, ceramic enhanced materials, electrically conducting materials, light-weight polymeric materials, high-strength polymeric materials, novel multi-material 3D-printer and safe by design. With the development of novel ink materials based on nanotechnology improvement of the mechanical properties (ceramic enhanced and high strength polymeric inks), the electrical conductivity (metal enhanced inks) and the weightiness (light weight polymeric materials) are achieved. Based on the voxel printing by PolyJet these new materials lead to a huge broadening of the range of available digital material combinations. Further focus points during the material and printer development are safe by design approaches, work place safety, risk assessment, collaboration with EU safety cluster and life cycle assessment. An established roadmap at the end of project enables the identification of future development needs in related fields order to allow Europe also in the future to compete at the forefront of the additive manufacturing revolution.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The first focus at the project start was on defining the design specifications and material requirements for the envisaged demonstrators (additive manufactured robotic joints and luminaires). This was used as basis for establishing the requirements for the novel ink systems and the printing process.
In terms of ceramic inks different types of ceramic nanoparticles have been synthesized with different average particle sizes in several 100-g scale. They were successfully dispersed in photocurable monomer matrixes and thus first ceramic filled inks were obtained. First successful jetting trials of model ceramic inks have been conducted and specimen for mechanical property testing have been realized. A suitable curing strategy for the inks obtained so far was established.
The requirements previously defined in terms of high nanoparticle content have already been met for silver nanoparticles for UV curable inks. The viscosity was well adjusted to the given requirements for printing. Therefore, a jettable ink was obtained. Curing and sintering investigations have been conducted. The best achieved result so far is a resistivity as low as 5 – 10 µΩcm.
The high-strength polyimide based ink started with the development of a polyimide ink for PolyJet 3D printing. Two strategies for ink development were chosen and the most suitable chemical precursors were selected. The ink development proceeded fast leading to a jettable ink with 80 w% precursor material. A comprehensive study regarding the curing behavior of the selected precursors was performed. This lead to the establishment of a curing strategy for the polyimide inks. Initial jetting and printing experiments have already been conducted and polyimide specimen with a thickness of 1.5 mm have been printed using a PolyJet printer.
Light weight polymeric materials by PolyJet printing shall be obtained in DIMAP by using inks systems that are foamable after printing. Two different approaches are followed: (1) utilizing core-shell particles (CSP) and (2) generating open cell foams. A proof of concept for different foamable particle synthesis was obtained so far. The curing procedure development lead to first foams produced from a model light weight polymeric ink containing CSPs. The CSP size is still too large for print heads hence different synthesis ways for smaller particles are investigated.
In terms of process development, a first experimental printer was realized based on the requirements and tests of the novel ink systems described above. Inks tested on this printer so far include ceramic , polyimide and conductive inks. Based on the testing and ink requirement new types of printheads with recirculation system were evaluated. A first assessment of thermographic measurement of printed objects was performed. Based on available ink materials a simulation tool for digital materials was created.
Test structures of additively manufactured pneumatic actuators were designed and initial tests as well as kinematic and dynamic modelling and simulation regarding the actuator torque requirements were performed. The material properties for the different materials to be used for the luminaire demonstration were assed. First test structures were manufactured by PolyJet 3D printing for both demonstrator cases. First design studies for the luminaire and the robotic arm demonstrator were obtained and a first evaluation of a hybrid manufacturing approach was performed.
Physiochemical properties of manufactured nanomaterials and exposure hotspots were identified within the framework on nano-saftey in DIMAP. A respective SDS template was created for use within the project partners. First measurements of nanoparticle release in the personal breathing zone in, at and around the printer and during printing were carried out. DIMAP is partner with the Nanosafety cluster.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Almost unlimited customization, increasing printing speed and growing accuracy make AM production an attractive alternative to conventional mass production, enabling new manufacturing possibilities in Europe. Consumers now expect a seamless flow between their online and offline activities, forcing companies to quickly adapt their strategy to reflect online-driven consumer behaviour or risk obsolescence. Consumers are also suffering from “search fatigue.” Engaging customization experiences will add value to mainstream shopping sites because they offer a new level of creative interaction.
The business models, new customization insights and multi-material technologies developed within DIMAP will enable SMEs as well as larger companies to offer unique custom products for high-impact electronic markets.
As most products are based on more than one material, and since today this "multi material" need is achieved by assembly, the new inks combined with the inkjet multimaterial capabilities open a very large market for both functional prototypes and end used parts.
DIMAP will contribute to European innovation capacity on the one hand with patents, training of PhD and Diploma students, more scientific papers, protection of intellectual property, on the other hand by strengthening the European competitiveness with the development of design-driven & user orientated 3D printed functional multi-materials goods.

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