Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
In November 2019, Rice University of Houston, Texas unveiled a new sort of 3D printable ultra-hard material, which was lightweight, load-bearing and even bullet resistant, proclaiming that it marked the next step towards the holy grail of material science. It was based on tubulanes, a still mostly theoretical material structure based on cross-linked carbon nanotubes, whose existence was first predicted in 1993. Rice University argues that while tubulanes themselves haven’t been made before, their 3D printed polymer variants may be the next best thing.
The Rice team discovered that tubulanes could be mimicked as scaled-up, 3D-printed polymer blocks filled with air pockets, which were compared against solid blocks of the same material. Both were subjected to crushing forces and had projectiles fired into them at speeds of circa 13,000 mph! While being subjected to crushing forces, the tubulane mimicking blocks collapsed in on themselves without cracking; they also resisted projectile impacts up to 10 times better than the solid blocks.
Co-authors Peter Boul and Carl Thaemlitz of Aramco Services Co. claim that the oil and gas industry will find tubulane structures particularly useful, especially for building oil wells, as such materials must withstand impacts that would rubblize standard cement. (Aramco Services Co. sponsored the research and is most likely an American-based subsidiary of Saudi Aramco, the petroleum and natural gas company of the Saudi Arabian government. The reader will have to decide if “rubblize” is an actual word; this blog post only links to Wikipedia’s article on “rubblization” as the University’s press release did.)
The paper’s lead author argues that tubulane-like structures of metals, ceramics and polymers are only limited by the size of the printer, and that optimizing the structure’s lattice design could lead to better materials for applications in: aerospace, the automotive industry, biomedicine, civil engineering, packaging and sports. The Rice team hope that the discovery will lead to 3D printable structures of any size with tunable mechanical properties.
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Disclaimer: Featured image of “Testing bulletproof vest, 9-13-23 LOC npcc.09503” is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1924 and 1977 without a copyright notice. It is nonetheless attributed to the National Photo Company collection at the Library of Congress. As far as the Library of Congress is concerned, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of the image. 3D Rapid Print completely discourages readers from attempting to replicate what is depicted in the image.