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A Direct-Write Structure Transfer Process Integrated with Polymer Molding Technologies

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The past decade has seen a surge in additive manufacturing materials, devices, and applications. Additionally, this unprecedented growth has led to a massive increase in printable ink systems for direct-write applications.  A variety of these new ink technologies have been specifically designed to advance the field of AM by creating new 3D-printed and/or flexible material systems. However, in this body of work, there has been little to no research describing methods to integrate printable inks directly into established technologies, such as conventional large-scale plastics manufacturing technologies. The proposed process chain: “direct-write” on metallic injection mold surface, injection of polymer melt, transfer of ink from mold into a plastic matrix. By integrating direct-write methods directly into molding technology, and implementing ink “transfer” material systems, the presented research will create a pathway to add mechanical, electrical, thermal, and electromagnetic functionality into free-form polymer parts. Specifically, this technology is applicable to, but not limited to, integration of direct-write methods, e.g. aerosol jetting, micro-dispensing, and screen printing, with plastic molding technologies, i.e. injection molding. In the proposed process chain, direct-write material systems undergo a “release and transfer” mechanism whereby they release from the stainless-steel mold and are integrated into polymeric parts. Experimental results demonstrate repeatable features with high fidelity, low-surface roughness, and the typical functionally of direct-write processes. In this work we describe the transfer process, and address the resulting mechanical, electrical, and electromagnetic characteristics.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the effects of the transfer-based, direct-write processes on the mechanical, electrical, and electromagnetic properties of polymer/rubber molded material systems
  • Begin the development of your own material systems which can be adopted for transfer-based processes
  • Assess the applicability of this technology to other processes and material systems