The active integration of multiple technologies with AM, produces unique capabilities that result in new and exiting manufacturing processes. The Keck Center's Multi3D technology combines complementary processes resulting in the realization of multi-functionality. The Foundry Multi3D System, All-In-One Multi3D System, Multi-functional BAAM System, and the Compact Multi-Tool Fabricator, combine thermoplastic material extrusion, wire and foil embedding, machining, direct-write, and robotic component placement for the fabrication of unique devices valued in industries such as aerospace, biomedical, and consumer electronics.
Large Area AM
The Cincinnati Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) System, with a print area of 140 x 65 x72 inches, allows for large-scale rapid prototyping and direct fabrication of construction and vehicle components, to name a few. The BAAM extrudes a rate of 20 lb/min with materials ranging from carbon filled ABS to polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG). UTEP's custom BAAM system will soon include a wire embedding tool that will allow for large-scale 3D printed parts with embedded filaments or wires for reinforcement of electrical interconnect.
Polymer Based AM
The use of polymers in AM enables the production of parts with applications ranging from automobile components to biomedical implants. There exists a myriad of material options, ranging from ULTEM (a high performance thermoplastic with excellent strength-to-weight ratio) to polyethylene glycol (a biocompatible and potentially biodegradable polymer). Common polymer AM processes include material extrusion and vat photopolymerization, both technologies contained in the Keck Center's broad collection of machines.
AM of metals refers to a class of AM processes where end-use parts are directly fabricated, usually layer-by-layer, from digital data. Technologies that fabricate from powder metal systems hold promise to revolutionize the way we currently fabricate complex metallic components by enabling the design and production of more efficient (stronger and lighter), less expensive components. Our research in this area has focused on development of process parameters for a array of powder materials and in situ process monitoring to understand the process in a more effective manner.
The use of ceramics in AM is gaining popularity for their inherent mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties. Ceramics can be used in printed circuit boards, sensors, heaters, transducers, high temperature functional materials, nuclear materials, and biomedical applications such as in the construction of dental and bone implants. At the Keck Center, ceramics printing technologies such as binder jetting, vat photopolymerization, and paste extrusion have been studied as means for printing technologies such as binder jetting, vat photopolymerization, and paste extrusion have been studied as means for printig ceramic parts using materials such as AlN, BaTiO3, PZT, Al2O3, SiC, LiNbO3, and SiO2.
AM-Enabled Materials Science
By developing novel polymer matrix composites and polymer blends, we can create printable materials with tunable physical properties such as mechanical strength, hardness, flexibility, and elasticity as well as optimized electromagnetic properties such as permittivity and permeability. Materials development also allows for fabrication of components with enhanced thermal conduction or radiation shielding, as well as the creation of new biopolymer-based composites or polymers with shape memory characteristics. Similarly, for metal-based AM, nucleation agents have been selectively introduced into metal powder feedstock materials processed via powder bed fusion AM technologies to tailor microstructure. The control of the phases that develop, has also been achieved through in situ nitriding by substituting the shield gas used during laser powder bed fusion AM.
Aplications of AM
3D Printed Electronics
Over the past decade, UTEP has tuned its hybrid manufacturing capabilities for the development of 3D Printed Electronics- multi-material, heterogeneous, electronic structures exhibiting non conventional 3D component placement and conductor routing. The incorporation of copper wire/foil embedding through thermal or ultrasonic methods allows for enhanced conductivity between electronic components. These efforts are of particular importance to the aerospace industry, intelligence community,and national defense agencies.
Biomedical Printing Applications
We are capable of creating 3D anatomical models to aid surgeons and medical researchers. Individualized computer and physical models can be created from medical imaging data to simulate the anatomy of, for example, an abdominal aneurysm, a human jaw bone, or even a human brain. We also study flow characteristics in individualized cardiovascular system models, and are breaking new ground by creating bioactive tissue engineering “scaffolds” that give regenerated tissue a place to live and grow. These complex-shaped hydrogel constructs have been applied in guided angiogenesis and nerve regeneration.