rom components for motorcycles to reconstructive moulds for injured motorcyclists, 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM)

technology holds a broad spectrum of possibilities for the transport industry. As these technologies mature, the materials used in the systems must do the same. Remarkably, the notion that we would

one day be able to construct functional, three dimensional objects by eff ectively drawing them was fi rst conceived in 1945, featuring in Murray Leinster’s Things Pass By. The science fi ction short story includes a scene in which a man constructs a spaceship by spraying one layer at a time. Although it’s a fantastical example, it

shows how the longstanding connection between AM and transport predates the advent of AM technology, and even the term itself. Today, AM promises a wealth of

benefi ts to transport manufacturing. Components manufactured using AM techniques are typically more lightweight than their subtractive manufactured counterparts and boast similar levels of strength and robustness, all while the

Thinking big

Traditionally there have been restrictions on the size of the printed objects, but recent research is overcoming this. One promising new process has emerged from an American collaboration between the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Centre and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The product of a US$20 million investment, funded by the DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Offi ce, the ambition is to take advantage of the local forestry industry to print bio-based materials, such as the hull moulds for boats as well as shelters, building components, tooling for composites and wind turbine blades.

Drawing on its experience of cellulose nano fi bre (CNF) technology, the University will examine drying, functionalisation, compounding with thermoplastics, multiscale modelling and sustainability with life-cycle analysis. The partners intend to create a material that is half plastic and half CNF, and they hope the properties could one day rival steel. Habib Dagher, executive director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Centre, comments, “We will integrate 20 years of research in bio-based composites at UMaine and 3D printing at ORNL. It is an opportunity engine for our students, faculty, staff and manufacturing industry, who will work side

by side. Together, we will break down wood to its nano-cellulose structure, combine it with bioplastics, and print with it at rates of hundreds of pounds an hour. The research we will be conducting with ORNL will spur next-generation manufacturing technologies using recyclable, bio-based, cost-effective materials that will bolster our region’s economy.”

Formerly the stuff of science fi ction, new materials will impact the transport industry

This is a boat roof taken from a 3D printed mould of nanocellulose-reinforced PLA


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