Technology & Engineering

Oxygen-tolerant ultrafast photocurable silicone for additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing technologies have been widely adopted in the healthcare sector with a global market projected to reach £3 billion by 2026. Silicone-based materials are widely used materials – from sealants and adhesives to PPE, catheters and microfluidic chips – thanks to their excellent strength, high flexibility and biocompatibility. However, they are under-represented within the field of additive manufacturing and there are currently no silicone inks that can be 3D printed by stereolithography; one of the main types of additive manufacturing platforms, most adapted to mass production. This is despite the total market size for silicone polymers, not just 3D printed, being a multi-billion dollar industry. Further, a wide range of medical devices could be personalised using 3D printing to specifically target patient conditions and similar materials would also be useful for the advanced diagnostics, such as organ-on-chip devices.

Despite their importance in polymer applications detailed above and likely to continue into the future, the use of silicones in additive manufacturing is prohibited by the lack of effective chemistry for fast and complete curing in air. To address this problem, researchers at QMUL have developed photocurable silicones for ultrafast (< 1s), complete curing in air. This technology is well-suited for various applications including AM and substrate coating, has excellent mechanical properties and is economically viable.

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