High-powered engineering plastics such as polyether imide (PEI), polyimide (PI), polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), and self-reinforced polyphenylene (SRP) are being developed for 3D printing processes.
The materials offer significant improvements in stiffness, strength, toughness, and dimensional stability compared to the materials now commercially available. Target applications include series production for automotive interiors and electronic enclosures. Tooling for aerospace carbon composites is now under development.
The advances were reviewed in a paper delivered at ANTEC 2014 last month in Las Vegas, Nevada. Authors of the paper are Thomas W. Hughes, Program Director, Open Innovation at PolyOne Corp.; Roger Avakian, VP of Scientific Development at PolyOne; Dr. Joseph Golba, Lead Scientist, at PolyOne; and Brian Rice, division head of multiscale composites at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI).
PolyOne, a compounder and polymer development specialist based in Avon Lake, Ohio, is participating in a three-year collaboration project with university and industry experts to develop advanced materials and production parts using 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing.
The project is made possible through an Ohio Third Frontier grant of nearly $3 million to the University of Dayton Research Institute, which will collaborate with PolyOne and other companies to develop and produce polymer formulations that will be used in specialty applications for the aerospace and automotive industry. Other project participants include GE Aviation, Rapid Prototype & Manufacturing Inc. (RP+M) and Stratasys. The collaboration also expects to make parts and components for ATK Aerospace Structures, Boeing, Goodrich, Honda, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman
The Ohio Third Frontier is a technology-based economic development initiative that provides funding for open innovation, entrepreneurial support, value chain development, and expansion of a skilled talent pool that can support technology-based economic growth.
Development of the high-end engineering plastics will be a welcome improvement to the capabilities of additive manufacturing. Widespread use for production parts, however, will still require improvements in process speed. The high-end materials will work best for complex pieces that are expensive to make through alternate materials. 3D printing could cut costs, simplify assemblies and reduce weight. Examples are air ducts or vents.
UDRI has developed a highly specialized nanomaterial that will reinforce the polymer feedstock, giving the finished product greater strength and stiffness than nonreinforced polymer. It also wants to make the polymer electrically conductive.