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3D Printing of Digital Foams for Lightweighting Applications Using FRESH Printing

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Urethane foams are a significant part of the manufacturing industry today, providing unique mechanical and thermal properties for automotive, aerospace, and construction applications. However, these materials have been challenging to use in additive manufacturing due to their lack of printability. Specifically, these and other soft materials will deform under their own weight during layer-by-layer deposition in air. The ability to 3D print multiple durometers of materials such as silicone and urethane rubbers together would provide a degree of flexibility and customization previously unavailable. Here we report development of Digital Foams that combine control of material type, durometer, and 3D architecture in order to achieve unique materials properties. To do this we print these materials within a support bath using the FRESH embedded printing technique. Results show the ability to precisely control filament diameter, spacing, shape, and orientation in order to create digital foams with a wide range of effective elastic moduli. Finally, we will discuss how these novel capabilities in printing digital foams can enable new applications and enhance performance compared to traditional foams by reducing weight and/or increasing geometric complexity.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the challenges associated with current IM molding techniques, and how they limit design freedom in various applications
  • List the benefits of bringing FRESH additive manufacturing to the space traditionally occupied by IM molding of urethane foams
  • Identify the unique characteristics of FRESH printing and how it enables novel digital foam manufacture