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Layer-by-Layer Printing of Photopolymers in 3D: How Weak is the Interface?

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journal contribution
posted on 10.02.2020, 19:53 by H. Gojzewski, Z. Guo, W. Grzelachowska, M. G. Ridwan, M. A. Hempenius, D. W. Grijpma, G. J. Vancso
Additive manufacturing or, as also called, three-dimensional (3D) printing is considered as a game-changer in replacing traditional processing methods in numerous applications; yet, it has one intrinsic potential weakness related to bonding of layers formed during the printing process. Prior to finding solutions for improvement, a thorough quantitative understanding of the mechanical properties of the interface is needed. Here, a quantitative analysis of the nanomechanical properties in 3D printed photopolymers formed by digital light processing (DLP) stereolithography (SLA) is shown. Mapping of the contact Young’s modulus across the layered structure is performed by atomic force microscopy (AFM) with a submicrometer resolution. The peakforce quantitative nanomechanical mapping (PF-QNM) mode was employed in the AFM experiments. The layered specimens were obtained from an acrylate-based resin (PR48, Autodesk), containing also a light-absorbing dye. We observed local depressions with values up to 30% of the maximum stiffness at the interface between the consecutively deposited layers, indicating local depletion of molecular cross-link density. The thickness values of the interfacial layers were approximately 11 μm, which corresponds to ∼22% of the total layer thickness (50 μm). We attribute this to heterogeneities of the photopolymerization reaction, related to (1) atmospheric oxygen inhibition and (2) molecular diffusion across the interface. Additionally, a pronounced stiffness decay was observed across each individual layer with a skewed profile. This behavior was rationalized by a spatial variation of the polymer cross-link density related to the variations of light absorption within the layers. This is caused by the presence of light absorbers in the printed material, resulting in a spatial decay of light intensity during photopolymerization.

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