American Chemical Society
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Embedded Core–Shell 3D Printing (eCS3DP) with Low-Viscosity Polysiloxanes

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-09-01, 14:14 authored by Rahul Karyappa, Wei Huang Goh, Michinao Hashimoto
Flexible core–shell 3D structures are essential for the development of soft sensors and actuators. Despite recent advancements in 3D printing, the fabrication of flexible 3D objects with internal architectures (such as channels and void spaces) remains challenging with liquid precursors due to the difficulty to maintain the printed structures. The difficulty of such fabrication is prominent especially when low-viscosity polysiloxane resins are used. This study presents a unique approach to applying direct ink writing (DIW) 3D printing in a three-phase system to overcome this limitation. We performed core–shell 3D printing using a low-viscosity commercial polysiloxane resin (Ecoflex 10) as shell inks combined with a coaxially extruded core liquid (Pluronic F127) in Bingham plastic microparticulate gels (ethanol gel). In the process termed embedded core–shell 3D printing (eCS3DP), we highlighted the dependence of the rheological characteristics of the three fluids on the stability of the printed core–shell filament. With the core liquid with a sufficiently high concentration of Pluronic F127 (30 w/w%; σy = 158.5 Pa), the interfacial instability between the shell liquid and core liquid was suppressed; the removal of the core liquid permitted the fabrication of perfusable channels. We identified the printing conditions to ensure lateral attachments of printed core–shell filaments. Interestingly, judicious selection of the rheological properties and flow rates of three phases allowed the formation of droplets consisting of core liquids distributed along the printed filaments. eCS3DP offers a simple route to fabricate 3D structures of a soft elastomeric matrix with embedded channels and should serve as a useful tool for DIW-based fabrication of flexible wearable devices and soft robotic components.