Additive manufacturing (AM) technologies have had an immeasurable impact on materials science, allowing the production of objects with complex geometries via simplified fabrication procedures. Of particular note are 3D printing techniques that use light rather than heat, such as stereolithography (SLA) and its derivatives. These photoinduced 3D printing systems exploit the inherent spatiotemporal characteristics of light to form polymer networks under ambient conditions. Surprisingly, polymer objects fabricated through photoinduced 3D printing methods have been possible using only conventional polymerisation methods, which has restricted control of 3D printed networks at the molecular level and has consequently provided inhomogeneous structures that lead to inferior mechanical properties (brittleness due to formation of inhomogeneous polymer networks). This project proposes the incorporation of new polymerisation techniques into 3D printing techniques, commonly called living polymerisation (polymerisation that can be repeatedly reinitiated to introduce new monomers or functionalities), facilitates fine control over polymer chain lengths and allows facile construction of advanced macromolecular architectures. Compared to uncontrolled polymerisation, these state-of-the-art techniques provide more sophisticated polymer networks. Our team has accomplished extensive breakthroughs in this area, culminating in a suite of robust and versatile living radical polymerisation implemented in 3D printing (see list of references). The work proposed herein aims to implement photoRDRP in additive manufacturing to control polymer structures and composition. By controlling the molecular structure, this project aims to finely tune the physicochemical properties and improve mechanical performance of 3D printed polymer materials. This project thus aims to provide more accessible routes to advanced materials manufacture for diverse applications including soft robotics, biomedical devices, aeronautics, etc.
This project will be carried out in the Cluster Advanced Macromolecular Design located in the school of chemical engineering and in collaboration with the school of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. The supervisory team has a range of 3D printers (digital light printer) using visible light. The materials prepared in this project will be fully characterised using mechanical measurements (via mechanical tests and dynamical mechanical analysis).
The research project will produce new process for the preparation of 3D printed objects with enhanced mechanical properties. The student will be integrated into a research group and will learn the synthesis of polymers (emerging technique of polymerisation), 3D printing techniques and the measurement of mechanical properties.