Additive Manufacturing (AM) of polymers uses layer-by-layer material deposition to create complex three-dimensional (3D) objects. Combining AM with printing of metallic electrical circuits inside the 3D object can drastically enhance the functional capabilities of 3D parts. While many such fabrication approaches have been suggested, they impose a tradeoff between electronic performance, material capability, and material cost. This project will create new knowledge on a novel process that breaks this tradeoff. Multifunctional 3D parts are in increasing demand for aerospace, robotics, healthcare, defense, and Internet-of-Things applications. Thus, the new manufacturing capabilities enabled by this project will have multiple transformative socio-economic benefits and stimulate a new generation of product innovations in the additive manufacturing industry. This research will combine several disciplines including manufacturing, thermal, mechanics, optics, and materials science. This project will create multiple outreach testbeds for engaging women and underrepresented minorities across high school, middle school, and undergraduate levels. This team will engage industry by organizing additive manufacturing symposia, and perform public outreach via the creation of video articles. This integration of research and education will encourage diversity in engineering and manufacturing across multiple educational levels.

This project’s goal is to enable concurrent 3D printing of polymer parts and electrically conductive metal circuits inside the part while achieving high electrical conductivity and low material cost. This research will test the hypothesis that flash light fusion of core-shell nanowires and physics-informed tuning of the process parameters can achieve those goals. Coupled optical, thermal, mass transfer and mechanical models over multiple length scales will be created and experimentally validated. This research will fill key knowledge gaps on the dynamics of optically-driven fusion in core-shell nanowires, thermomechanically-driven changes in circuit conductivity during polymer printing, and the relationship between the process parameters and performance. The outcome will be a scientific foundation for systemic realization of a performance-cost-material window that is not achievable with existing processes.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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Rutgers University
United States
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