The system is a combination 3D printer and an automated manual pull post-drawing system designed for producing different polymer parts with perfectly aligned nanofibers. The embedded nanofibers can produce strong parts and prosthetics with minimal waste for aerospace, biomedical, cosmetics, healthcare, electronics, and infrastructure applications.
The ability to engineer strong nanofiber materials is of great interest in numerous fields including aerospace, automotive, biomedical and construction. Electrospinning is a simple method capable of producing polymer nanofibers. It is observed in conventionally manufactured and electrospun fibers that mechanical strength increases when diameter is reduced. However, electrospun nanofibers are weaker than conventionally manufactured fibers, despite greatly reduced diameters. This lack of mechanical strength in electrospun fibers is attributed to the absence of post-processing stages, such as drawing and tensioning, which are commonly used in fiber production to increase strength by 5-15x. The Automated-Track design is able to overcome the limitations of electrospinning by implementing a processing stage capable of simultaneous collection and drawing fibers. This design is able to draw individual fibers immediately as they are collected, tightly control processing parameters, and process thousands of nanofibers at once. This approach successfully combines electrospinning and a critical post-processing stage and has shown to increase the ultimate tensile strength of polycaprolactone fibers by 7.4x and polyacrylonitrile fibers by 4.5x. The method is compatible with most polymers which can be collected across parallel plates and is anticipated to be compatible with high-throughput methods for scalability.
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