Magnetically-Assisted Slip Casting of Bioinspired Heterogeneous Composites
Composites are often made heterogeneous in nature to fulfill the functional demands imposed by the environment, but remain difficult to fabricate synthetically due to the lack of adequate and easily accessible processing tools. We report on an additive manufacturing platform to fabricate complex-shaped parts exhibiting bio-inspired heterogeneous microstructures with locally tunable texture, composition and properties and unprecedentedly high volume fractions of inorganic phase (up to 100%). The technology combines an aqueous-based slip casting process with magnetically-directed particle assembly to create programmed microstructural designs using anisotropic stiff platelets in a ceramic, metal or polymer functional matrix. Using quantitative tools to control the casting kinetics and the temporal pattern of the applied magnetic fields, we demonstrate that this robust approach can be exploited to design and fabricate heterogeneous composites with thus far inaccessible microstructures. Proof-of-concept examples include bulk composites with periodic patterns of micro-reinforcement orientation and tooth-like bilayer parts with intricate shapes displaying site-specific composition and texture.