Mechanical & physical properties of hemp reinforced composite parts: injection molding vs. 3D printing

Principal investigator: Ronald Kander

University: Thomas Jefferson University

Industry partner: Coexist, LLC

One of the most promising uses of hemp biomass is as a biodegradable reinforcement in bioplastics, producing a reinforced composite material that is biodegradable. The challenge is to develop composite compositions that demonstrate good mechanical and physical properties to allow them to be use in a wide range of consumer and industrial applications. 3D printing is often used to rapidly prototype composite part designs before metal molds are cut to mass produce large quantities of the part via injection molding. In order to facilitate the design and manufacture of hemp-reinforced bioplastic composite parts, one must first understand the relationship between the performance of a 3D printed prototype and the performance of the injection molded final part in these novel materials. In this project, we will work with Coexist to identify several hemp/bioplastic composite compositions based on our previous work with them. These compositions will then be produced and transformed into representative composite parts using laboratory-scale compounding, 3D printing and injection molding capabilities at Jefferson. Representative parts will be selected primarily from the construction/building industry (outlet covers, junction boxes, etc.). Resultant parts will then be tested to measure mechanical and physical properties in order to understand the performance relationship between 3D printed prototype parts and injection molded parts made from these unique hemp-derived biodegradable composite materials.