Innovation in 3-D Printing for Stronger and Lighter Products

InteliSpark client, Igneous IP Holdings, LLC, secures $225,000 for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for phase I of their project in developing new technology for 3-D printing, the field more formally known as additive manufacturing.

Stronger and lighter parts made with materials such as carbon fiber and glass fiber, are in high demand across many fields in the manufacturing industry. For instance, the transportation industry is incorporating these materials to design stronger and lighter aircrafts, cars and high-speed trains. Benefits include significant reductions in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, material consumption, and improved safety and efficiency of a product.

Yet, the 3-D printing industry is struggling to meet this increased demand through inherent technical limitations. The industry uses vat photopolymerization, a process of selectively curing liquid resin (flexible, organic compound) through targeted light-activated polymerization (process where small molecules combine chemically to produce a chain-like molecule called a polymer). Though manufacturers rely on this process to create large models quickly and accurately, the process is expensive for some applications and creates parts that are more prone to degradation.

Researchers at the startup Igneous IP Holdings, LLC are proposing a new technology to incorporate into 3-D printing that will accelerate production speed and overcome size limitations. Researchers will modify the high-resolution vat photopolymerization process through the development of a novel foam resin technology. The end results are parts that are stronger, 75% lighter and less expensive to produce compared to traditional 3-D printing processes, as well as a smaller environmental footprint.