Ordinarily, when one part of a 3D printed plastic product breaks it would need to be broken down into its component parts and go through multiple heating processes in order to be repaired. A team of researchers from the University of New South Wales have come up with a much quicker, and more environmentally friendly, way of repairing these products. And their discovery could have implications for anything made from a polymer material.
The researchers found 3D printed plastics are able to 'self heal' when exposed to light. Professor Cyrille Boyer, Dr Nathaniel Corrigan and Mr Michael Zhang from UNSW's School of Chemical Engineering discovered adding a specific powder to liquid resin during the printing process can assist with speedy repairs. When present, this ingredient triggers a chemical reaction that helps broken plastic fuse back together when an object is exposed to standard LED lights for around one hour. Once healed in this way the plastic becomes even stronger than before.
The discovery has the potential to reduce waste by allowing for easy repair of products made from or containing plastics.
"In many places where you use a polymer material, you can use this technology. So, if a component fails, you can repair the material without having to throw it away," Dr Corrigan explained.
"There is an obvious environmental benefit because you're not having to re-synthesise a brand-new material every time it gets broken. We are increasing the lifespan of these materials, which is going to reduce plastic waste."
Head here to read the research report in full.
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