Polymer discovery gives 3D-printed sand super strength
WHAT IS IT?
Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed a novel polymer to bind and strengthen silica sand for binder jet additive manufacturing, a 3D-printing method used by industries for prototyping and part production.
The printable polymer enables sand structures with intricate geometries and exceptional strength -- and is also water soluble. Silica sand is a cheap, readily available material that has been gaining interest in automotive and aerospace sectors for creating composite parts. Lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber or fiberglass, are wrapped around 3D-printed sand cores, or "tools," and cured with heat. Silica sand is attractive for tooling because it does not change dimensions when heated and because it offers a unique advantage in washable tooling.