3D-printed composite is lighter than wood and stiffer than concrete

Researchers at Harvard University have developed a way to 3D-print a cellular composite with record lightness and stiffness using an epoxy resin. This marks the first time that epoxy is used for 3D-printing, and the advance could lead to the development of new lightweight architectures for more efficient wind turbines, faster cars, and lighter airplanes.

The researchers took inspiration from the microscopic structure of balsa wood, which is mostly hollow and in which only the cell walls are carrying the load. According to principal investigator Prof. Jennifer A. Lewis, their research is a significant step because it paves the way for 3D-printing using materials, such as epoxies, which can be used for structural applications, as opposed to the thermoplastics that your standard 3D printer uses. 

Using this resin, Lewis and colleagues obtained composites that are as stiff as wood, up to 20 times stiffer than commercial 3D-printed polymers, and twice as strong as the strongest printed polymer composites up to that point.

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Image credit: Harvard University

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