Enhanced additive manufacturing of polypropylene components via interlayer fusion with alkylboranes

Principal investigator: Andrew Magenau

University: Drexel University

Industry partner: Braskem America, Inc.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is the central manufacturing platform in aerospace, construction, and automotive sectors, generating $9.3 billion in revenue in 2019. Due to its versatility and minimal barrier to implementation, AM has a secure foothold in worldwide manufacturing, projected to grow at 20%-30% through 2030. Despite adoption, components fabricated with AM exhibit inferior properties to those produced through conventional processing, especially with polypropylene. During fabrication, poor interlayer welding diminishes the mechanical properties, preventing AM from being employed in numerous applications. Therefore, the development of new AM processes that fuse polypropylene filaments together during printing would enable the production of robust polypropylene components and expanded applications.

We seek to address this need by taking a transformative approach to AM by chemically fusing the layers of polypropylene during 3D printing. Our approach has potential to provide improved properties while maintaining dimensional accuracy. Preliminary results confirm successful bonding of polypropylene substrates. The proposal team is situated to accomplish the proposed work, drawing polymer and chemistry expertise from the principal investigator and AM expertise from Braskem America, Inc. An interactive collaboration is planned through in-person visits and regular conference calls to facilitate student training in applied research and the retention of talented scientists in Pennsylvania.