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Additive manufacturing of embedded carbon nanocomposite structures with multi-material digital light processing (MMDLP)


Additive manufacturing (AM) has become an increasingly powerful technique for fabricating complex three-dimensional micro-architectures for a wide variety of applications. Despite the multitude of AM techniques that support single material printing at progressively higher throughput, larger build size, and finer spatial resolution, multi-material printing of interlaced structures with one of the materials being a filled composite has not been demonstrated. This work aims to demonstrate the technical feasibility of fabricating such heterogeneous structures using a custom-built multi-material digital light processing (MMDLP) 3D printer. The printer was equipped with two resin dispensers and an air-jet that enable fast exchange between the resins—one of which was filled with carbon nanotubes (CNTs) up to 0.25%. The inclusion of CNTs reduced the cure depth of the resins, but significantly lowered the critical exposure required to initiate the photopolymerization. This information was successfully used to select appropriate process parameters for printing complex CNT-filled multi-material structures.

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© lattice structure, (b) simple cubic lattice structure with a carbon nanocomposite rod embedded in the middle, (c) 180 µm × 180 µm base, 4 mm height square rods with a carbon nanocomposite rod in the middle. Picture inserted on the right shows a close-up image of a single rod.


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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIP-#1822157 (Phase I IUCRC at University of Connecticut: Center for Science of Heterogeneous Additive Printing of 3D Materials (SHAP3D)) and from the SHAP3D I/UCRC Members: Akita Innovations, Boeing Company, U.S. Army CCDC Armaments Center, U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center, Desktop Metal, HP Inc, Hutchinson, Integrity Industrial Ink Jet Integration LLC, Karagozian & Case, Raytheon Technologies, Stratasys Ltd, and Triton Systems Inc. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the sponsors. The authors would like to thank the industry advisory board members, Dr. Patrick Kinlen, John Sailhamer, Dr. Scott Eastman, and Dr. Adam Pawloski for their technical inputs and Joseph Luciani for assistance with printing the air distributor.

Author information




SK and S-YC performed the experiments and data analysis. KK contributed to the initial construction of the MMDLP 3D printer. The graphical user interface was developed by AC. KK and AWKM were responsible for the conceptualization, funding acquisition, and project administration. SK was the primary author of the manuscript, which was reviewed and edited by all the co-authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anson W. K. Ma.

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Kang, S., Chang, SY., Costa, A. et al. Additive manufacturing of embedded carbon nanocomposite structures with multi-material digital light processing (MMDLP). Journal of Materials Research (2021).

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  • Heterogeneous
  • Composite
  • Additive manufacturing