breakthrough! 3D nano-ink breaks the bottleneck

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After plasma etching the polymer, electron microscopy shows the alignment of the nanomaterials in the 3D printing direction.


3D printed “dog bone-shaped” nanocomposite tensile test sample.


A new 3D printable polymer nanocomposite ink has incredible properties and finds widespread use in aerospace, medicine and electronics.

Mechanical engineering researchers at Michigan Technological University in the United States have invented a method to use carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to make 3D printing nanocomposite polymer ink, which is expected to replace traditional epoxy resin.

Engineer Parisa Pour Shahid Saeed Abadi and graduate student Masoud Kasrae, who study the interface of materials, mechanics and medicine, recently published an article in the journal Additive Manufacturing and noted that this material has great promise beyond the scientific scope of nanocomposite ink.

The conductivity of the new nanomaterial ink makes it possible to print epoxies that double as wires — whether on circuit boards, aircraft wings, or in 3D printed drivers used to guide vascular catheters. Another useful property of nanocomposite polymer ink is its strength. "Compared to steel and aluminum, we found that epoxy composites with the same strength can reduce weight by 80%," Kasrae said.

Additionally, in the medical, aerospace and electronics industries, where defects and damage can cause serious trouble, nanocomposites can serve safety functions. "When something breaks, a tiny crack starts from a tiny defect and grows to destroy the entire structure," Abadi said. "Nanocomposites can bridge those cracks without allowing them to grow. This is one of the mechanisms by which carbon nanotubes increase the mechanical strength of materials."

In the future, polymer nanocomposite inks are expected to replace traditional epoxy resins. Performance, weight ratio, conductivity, increased strength and ease of use are just a few of the reasons, the authors say.

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