Straight into the Labs!

Posted in: Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

Author: Barrie Dams -

I am currently in the second month of my PhD project, which will consist of examining materials suitable for 3D printing lightweight structures. The project will be using swarming, coordinated drones to deposit the material rather than current ground based heavy machinery.

I have dived straight into laboratory work with a small device which represents the amount of material that a single drone can carry. I have enjoyed commencing lab work early and this will help inform my reading by refining the search for suitable literature. Material investigation will focus upon cement pastes and polymers, with the starting point for my work being whether polyurethane foam may play a role in a structural material.

The device consists of two syringes and a 6V DC motor connected to rods moving the plungers up and down the syringes. Polyurethane foam has two liquid components – a resin and a hardener. The figures below show the liquids being drawn into the syringes and then deposited through an arrangement of silicon tubes with an epoxy mixer nozzle into a mould.

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Long established as insulating materials, initial syringe device operation has been carried out using standard density polyurethane foam. I have been using different machines for the first time to characterise the material, with mechanical testing in the structures laboratory, travelling to Chemical Engineering to use the Rheometer and to the Microscopy analysis suite to use the Scanning Electron Microscope and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. This will lead on to the investigation of higher density polyurethane foam, which has a density comparable to timber. I look forward in the coming weeks to using the techniques that I have learnt in the first month of my PhD to investigate the higher density foam and determine the structural feasibility of the material.

Posted in: Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate


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