3D printed components with ultrasonically arranged microscale structure

Thomas M. Llewellyn-Jones, Bruce W. Drinkwater, Richard S. Trask

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Citations (SciVal)


This paper shows the first application of in situ manipulation of discontinuous fibrous structure mid-print, within a 3D printed polymeric composite architecture. Currently, rapid prototyping methods (fused filament fabrication, stereolithography) are gaining increasing popularity within the engineering commnity to build structural components. Unfortunately, the full potential of these components is limited by the mechanical properties of the materials used. The aim of this study is to create and demonstrate a novel method to instantaneously orient micro-scale glass fibres within a selectively cured photocurable resin system, using ultrasonic forces to align the fibres in the desired 3D architecture. To achieve this we have mounted a switchable, focused laser module on the carriage of a three-axis 3D printing stage, above an in-house ultrasonic alignment rig containing a mixture of photocurable resin and discontinuous 14 μm diameter glass fibre reinforcement(50 μm length). In our study, a suitable print speed of 20 mm s-1 was used, which is comparable to conventional additive layer techniques. We show the ability to construct in-plane orthogonally aligned sections printed side by side, where the precise orientation of the configurations is controlled by switching the ultrasonic standing wave profile mid-print. This approach permits the realisation of complex fibrous architectures within a 3D printed landscape. The versatile nature of the ultrasonic manipulation technique also permits a wide range of particle types (diameters, aspect ratios and functions) and architectures (in-plane, and out-plane) to be patterned, leading to the creation of a new generation of fibrous reinforced composites for 3D printing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number02LT01
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2016


  • 3D additive manufacturing
  • complex internal architectures
  • discontinuous fibrous structure
  • polymeric composite structures
  • stereolithography
  • ultrasonic alignment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Signal Processing


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