Chemitecture bridges the CHEMistry of new functional materials on a molecular level with the macroscopic archiTECTURE of 3D printed polymers to create the next generation of polymer-based objects that are well prepared for the digital age. Digitalization of polymers relies on additive manufacturing techniques (AMT), which conveniently translate virtual 3D models into physical objects by a digital slicing of computer-aided designs (CAD) and by building the 3D object layer-by-layer. Although AMTs are considered key technologies in future production routines (e.g. connecting the digital thread from design to production in “smart” factories), the application of AMTs in producing highly engineered and technologically relevant polymer parts is still in its infancy.
Besides the low build speed, the industrial breakthrough of AMTs is mainly limited by he availability of high-resolution and multi-material printing processes, lack in sophisticated macroscopic designs, and he availability of functional materials.
By following an ambitious and highly interdisciplinary research program, Chemitecture aims to overcome those limitations by (i) synthesizing AMT compatible stimuli-responsive monomers, (ii) advancing established printing techniques (e.g. high resolution and multi-material printing), (iii) a spatially resolved tuning of material performance/ functionality on molecular and macroscopic level, (iv) designing new macroscopic architectures with advanced function (e.g. mechanical metamaterials), stablishing innovative concepts for high resolution 3D printing of electronics, and introducing otion (actuators, soft robotics), self-repair and enhanced recyclability into 3D printed objects. With these out-of-the-box approaches, Chemitecture addresses the whole value chain of digitalized polymers.
This strategy is also reflected by the structure of the consortium, which covers the complementary expertise of 7 Scientific Partners from 5 universities together with 7 Company Partners. International top-level universities (e.g. Texas A&M, Vrije Universiteit Brussel) joined the consortium, which aims to become an internationally recognized player in a research topic, which is at the forefront of material science. Chemitecture will go beyond customized structural (passive) properties obtained by traditional AMTs, and will induce a scientific and technological step-change in “active” digitalized polymers.
An important breakthrough is expected by the combined approaches towards chemical functionality, macroscopic architecture and new printing techniques for the fabrication of 3D objects with (self)adaptable and stimuli-driven (“active”) functions (“4D” printing). Thus, Chemitecture’s concepts will provide important tools for the preparation of structurally and stimuli (e.g. electrical, thermal, optical) controllable 3D smart devices in future applications. By creating high-performance 3D printed structures with additional functionalities a major gap in AMTs is expected to be closed by Chemitecture’s research program, since costs of low build speed can be compensated by a higher degree of performance/functionality and by higher margins of future products.
Selected examples of highly functional products in future applications involve
- (self)adaptive prosthetics (change of stiffness/damping as a response to impact),
- actuators that are able to undergo complex motion patterns (soft robotics),
- automotive parts dissipating forces as a function of the impact load,
- personalized 3D chip housings,
- production of 3D additive manufacturing packages (main driver for internet of things) as well as
- digitalized polymers and composites with self-repair function (increased lifetime and recyclability).