3D printers create foams with a more uniform internal structure. Photo by LLNL
LIVERMORE, Calif., April 27 (UPI) -- According to material scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 3D-printed foam is more durable and functional than cellular materials.
Traditional foams, or cellular solids, have a wide variety of industrial applications. They're used for insulation and shock absorption, found in airplane wings and boat hulls.
Current foam production processes result in a heterogeneous consistency, the material's cells varied in size, shape and organization. Additive manufacturing, the building process used by 3D printers, allows for a more uniform and specifically structured cellular material.
To see if foams created by 3D printers could stand up to traditional foams, a team of researchers at LLNL put a series of foams through an advanced aging process -- subjecting them to a series of stress tests to replicate weeks and months of wear and tear.
Foams made via 3D printing aged slower, maintaining their mechanical and structural characteristics for longer.
X-ray images showed that stress fractures inside traditional foams varied greatly from location to location, with maximum local stress points greater than those suffered within 3D-printed foam.
Researchers shared the tests results in the journal Scientific Reports.
"3D printing of foams offers tremendous flexibility in creating programmable architectures, customizable shapes and tunable mechanical response," lead study author Amitesh Maiti said in a news release. "Now that our work strongly indicates superior long-term stability and performance of the printed material, there is no reason not to consider replacing traditional foam with appropriately designed 3D-printed foam in specific future applications."