The research on 3D printing oily self-lubricating materials of Lanzhou Chemical Institute has progressed

Polymer-based oil-based self-lubricating composites have a wide range of application prospects in cutting-edge fields such as aerospace and automotive industry due to their lightweight, corrosion resistance, low noise and long-term maintenance-free characteristics. Most of the traditional methods for preparing oil-containing self-lubricating composites adopt the two-step method of first preparing porous materials and then filling lubricants, which has problems such as complex process and low oil content, and it is difficult to achieve complex structural forming. Therefore, it is of great significance to develop new polymer-based oil-containing self-lubricating materials and rapid prototyping technologies for devices.

Recently, the team of Wang Xiaolong, a researcher from the State Key Laboratory of Solid Lubrication of Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, proposed a new strategy for the additive manufacturing of polymer oily self-lubricating composites by microemulsion, and used light-curing 3D printing to realize the formation of oil-containing self-lubricating composites and complex structural mechanical parts in one step, and related papers were published in Additive Manufacturing.

This method uses the stabilizing effect of talc on micro-oil droplets to realize the microemulsion photosensitive resin with uniform and stable dispersion of micro-droplets of lubricating oil. Through digital light processing (DLP), 3D printing fixes micro-oil droplets in the material system during the curing process of photosensitive ink from liquid to solid, resulting in an oily polymer self-lubricating composite material in one step.

Through the effective control of the content of each component in the material system and the preparation process, the researchers realized the stable dispersion of PAO micro-oil droplets in the ink. Using SEM, it was found that the microemulsion system was uniformly fixed in the material system after photocuring 3D printing. The friction test shows that the friction coefficient of the oily self-lubricating composite prepared by the microemulsion 3D printing can be reduced to less than 0.1, which is 82.9% lower than that of pure polymer, and the wear volume is also greatly reduced, showing excellent friction and anti-wear performance.

Combined with the characteristics of 3D printing free manufacturing and rapid prototyping, the researchers designed and produced different kinds of gears and bearing cages, and found that the size shrinkage rate of devices manufactured by 3D printing was less than 2%, which proved that the structure formed by microemulsion 3D printing has high dimensional stability and precision, and has the forming ability to manufacture precision complex structural parts. This new polymer oil-bearing self-lubricating composite molding strategy based on 3D printing provides new ideas and material technical solutions for the fabrication of self-lubricating composite structures and their cross-scale complex structural components. (Source: Ye Manshan, China Science News)

3D printing microemulsion oily self-lubricating device. Photo courtesy of Lanzhou Chemical Institute.

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