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Manufacturing and characterization of uniformly porous and graded porous polymeric structures via selective laser sintering

Jande, Yusufu Abeid Chande
Selective laser sintering is a rapid prototyping method (RP), which was originally developed, along with other RP methods, to speed up the prototyping stage of product design. The sole needed input for production being the solid model of the part, the mold/tool-free production characteristics and the geometric part complexity that can be achieved due to layer-by-layer production have extended the applicability/research areas of these methods beyond prototyping towards new applications and material development. Local pore formation in a part that occurs as a result of the discrete manufacturing nature of selective laser sintering is normally considered a defect. In the current research, this is viewed as an opportunity for material development: Exploitation of rapid prototyping methods to produce composites/functionally graded materials with controlled porous structures. That the material interior structure (porous structure) and exterior shape are formed during the same course renders selective laser sintering process as an attractive manufacturing alternative for producing complex-geometry composite/porous materials, which may be difficult or impossible to manufacture with other techniques. In this thesis, the use of selective laser sintering (a rapid prototyping method) in producing uniformly porous and graded polymeric graded porous structures is studied. The material used was polyamide powder (PA 2200) and the selective laser sintering machine used was the EOSINT P 380 system. In this research, three process parameters of the SLS system, the hatching distance, the laser power and the laser scanning speed were varied to produce parts that have different porosities. Porous parts with a homogenous porous microstructure (uniformly porous parts) could be produced, as well as graded porous parts. The results of uniformly porous structure production were utilized to build graded porous structures by imparting different porosities along a certain direction within a single part. Both, uniformly porous and graded structures were characterized physically and mechanically. The porous parts (both uniformly porous and graded porous) were infiltrated with epoxy resin to produce epoxy-PA composites and graded materials. The physical and mechanical properties of these parts were compared with those of the uninfiltrated (porous PA) structures