A special powder added to the liquid resin used in 3D printing can result in self-healing materials, according to researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney).

The addition of trithiocarbonate — which is a reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) agent — to the liquid resin used in 3D printing results in a material that can self-heal when a standard LED light is shone on the damage for one hour.

According to the UNSW Sydney researchers, the LED light triggers a chemical reaction and thus the fusion of the broken pieces.

Source: UNSW SydneySource: UNSW Sydney

Products manufactured with the specially treated resin could potentially be made stronger once repaired and the UNSW Sydney researchers suggest that the material may also reduce future chemical waste.

“In many places where you use a polymer material, you can use this technology. So, if a component fails, you can repair the material without having to throw it away,” explained the researchers.

“There is an obvious environmental benefit because you're not having to re-synthesize a brand-new material every time it gets broken. We are increasing the lifespan of these materials, which is going to reduce plastic waste.”

The material could be used to manufacture future wearable electronics, sensors and even shoes, according to the researchers.

The study, A Photoinduced Dual-Wavelength Approach for 3D Printing and Self-Healing of Thermosetting Materials, has been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com