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Magnetically assisted slip casting of bioinspired heterogeneous composites

An Addendum to this article was published on 01 December 2017

This article has been updated


Natural composites are often heterogeneous to fulfil functional demands. Manufacturing analogous materials remains difficult, however, owing to the lack of adequate and easily accessible processing tools. Here, we report an additive manufacturing platform able to fabricate complex-shaped parts exhibiting bioinspired heterogeneous microstructures with locally tunable texture, composition and properties, as well as unprecedentedly high volume fractions of inorganic phase (up to 100%). The technology combines an aqueous-based slip-casting process with magnetically directed particle assembly to create programmed microstructural designs using anisotropic stiff platelets in a ceramic, metal or polymer functional matrix. Using quantitative tools to control the casting kinetics and the temporal pattern of the applied magnetic fields, we demonstrate that this approach is robust and can be exploited to design and fabricate heterogeneous composites with thus far inaccessible microstructures. Proof-of-concept examples include bulk composites with periodic patterns of microreinforcement orientation, and tooth-like bilayer parts with intricate shapes exhibiting site-specific composition and texture.

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Figure 1: Overview of the magnetically assisted slip-casting (MASC) process.
Figure 2: Anisotropic structures with periodic platelet orientation patterns obtained through programmed alignment using MASC.
Figure 3: Processing MASC structures into multifunctional composites.
Figure 4: Design and fabrication of a bioinspired composite that resembles the complex shape and heterogeneous architecture of natural tooth.

Change history

  • 10 November 2017

    This Article has an addendum associated with it, for details see pdf.


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We thank R. Libanori, D. Carnelli, N. Ghielmetti, J. Reuteler, B. Wegmann and P. Kocher for experimental assistance and discussions. We acknowledge internal funding from ETH Zürich and the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant 200020_146509), as well as support by the Center for Optical and Electron microscopy of ETH Zürich (ScopeM).

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Experiments were designed by H.L.F., F.B., T.P.N. and A.R.S., and conducted by H.L.F., F.B. and T.P.N. H.L.F. produced the scaffolds with controlled texture and composition and characterized the process and the products. F.B. prepared the nacre-like scaffolds (fully ceramic and with mineral bridges), performed the density control experiment and the mechanical characterization. T.P.N. did the polymer chemistry, the scaffold infiltration and the nacre-like copper composites. H.L.F., F.B. and T.P.N. designed the figures and the Supplementary Information, and A.R.S. wrote the main paper. All authors discussed the results and their implications, and revised the manuscript at all stages.

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Correspondence to André R. Studart.

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Le Ferrand, H., Bouville, F., Niebel, T. et al. Magnetically assisted slip casting of bioinspired heterogeneous composites. Nature Mater 14, 1172–1179 (2015).

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