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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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).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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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). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4419
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