Interconnected Self-Propagating Photopolymer Waveguides: An Alternative to Stereolithography for Rapid Formation of Lattice-Based Open-Cellular Materials
Recently, a new technique has been developed to create unique open-cellular materials with micro-scale truss, or lattice features ranging from tens to hundreds of microns. These materials are formed from a three-dimensional, interconnected array of self-propagating photopolymer waveguides. By utilizing this self-propagating effect, three-dimensional open-cellular polymer materials can be formed in seconds. In addition, intrinsic to the process is the ability to control specific micro-lattice parameters which ultimately affect the bulk material properties. Unlike stereolithography, this new fabrication technique is rapid (~ minutes to form an entire part) and relies on a single two-dimensional exposure surface to form three-dimensional structures (thickness > 25 mm possible). This combination of speed and planar scalability opens the possibility for large-scale mass manufacturing. The utility of these new materials range from lightweight energy absorbing structures to thermal management materials to bio-scaffolds.