3D printing technology has been used for rapid prototyping since 1980’s and is still developing in a way that can be used for customized products with complex design and miniature features. Among all the available 3D printing techniques, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is one of the most widely used technologies because of its capability to build different structures by employing various materials. However, complexity of parts made by FDM is greatly limited by restriction of using support materials. Support materials are often used in FDM for several complex geometries such as fully suspended shapes, overhanging surfaces and hollow features. This paper describes an approach to 3D print a structure using silicone elastomer and polylactide fiber (PLA) by employing a novel support material that is soluble in water. This support material is melted sugar which can easily be prepared at a low cost. Sugar is a carbohydrate, which is found naturally in plants such as sugarcane and sugar beets; therefore, it is completely organic and eco-friendly. As another advantage, the time for removing this material from the part is considerably less than other commercially available support materials and it can be removed easily by warm water without leaving any trace. Experiments were done using an inexpensive desktop 3D printer to fabricate complex structures for use in soft robots. The results envision that further development of this system would contribute to a method of fabrication of complex parts with lower cost yet high quality.
Armita Hamidi, Shrenik Jain, and Yonas Tadesse, "3D printing PLA and silicone elastomer structures with sugar solution support material," Proc. SPIE 10163, Electroactive Polymer Actuators and Devices (EAPAD) 2017, 101630Z (Presented at SPIE Smart Structures and Materials + Nondestructive Evaluation and Health Monitoring: March 28, 2017; Published: 17 April 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2258689.
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