Brightlands Materials Center Kicks Off Unique Project Developing Innovative Materials for Additive Manufacturing and 4D Printing


Geleen – (June 2018) – Brightlands Materials Center and partners DSM, Xilloc Medical, Eindhoven University of Technology, University of Maastricht and NWO have started a unique four years project to progress new polymeric materials for use in additive manufacturing and 4D printing. These materials are aimed to bring improved and novel properties to products made from them. The innovative materials are based on the recently developed concepts of dynamic and reversible chemistry.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a rapidly growing manufacturing technology that is increasingly moving away from rapid prototyping to industrial manufacturing of small series. This development is accompanied by an increasing demand for better and novel materials to enable qualitatively better, faster and more robust additive manufacturing processes.

Freedom of design with dynamic materials in 3D printing (Photo courtesy of Brightlands Materials Center)

Freedom of design with dynamic materials in 3D printing (Photo courtesy of Brightlands Materials Center)

Dynamic polymers such as vitrimers are a fascinating new class of materials with highly unusual properties. Most well known are self-healing properties, which enable the materials to  repair themselves after damage takes place. Using dynamic materials in 3D printing is novel and is expected to lead to new applications.

Three research areas
As a start, three areas have been identified for the application of these new polymeric materials:

  1. Selective laser sintering Selective laser sintering is an additive manufacturing technology in which individual powder particles merge by melting them with a laser. An inefficient merging process leads to poor mechanical properties of the printed part. The novel materials improve the merging process by reversibly reducing their viscosity and thus flowing more easily together and secondly, have better bond formation across particle boundaries.
  2. 4D printing technology The 4D printing is a promising emerging technology that is based on dynamic materials that respond to stimuli to change properties such as shape. The project will combine additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D inkjet printing and stereolithography with responsive liquid crystalline polymer networks. These are able to react to a variety of external stimuli in a reversible manner. New approaches are proposed to explore nature‐like hierarchal structures.
  3. Biofabrication In the field of Biofabrication, Additive manufacturing is used to print 3D tissue. Currently, there are limitations because there is a lack of well‐defined and customizable synthetic systems that allow for precise control over material properties and the bioactivation of the material. The reversible and mechanically instructive materials developed in this project enable the exploration of the ability to influence stem‐cell behavior and elevate biofabrication for tissue engineering.

Collaboration and funding
Partners in this project are:

This research received funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO, in the framework of the Fund New Chemical Innovations and from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the framework of the TKI allowance.

About Brightlands Materials Center
Brightlands Materials Center is an international R&D center in the field of polymeric materials with the aim to bring innovative and sustainable materials solutions meeting tomorrow’s societal challenges. Its three major shared research programs are in the fields of Lightweight Automotive, Sustainable Buildings and Additive Manufacturing. Brightlands Materials Center is a joint innovation center of TNO, the Dutch innovation organization for applied scientific research (, in collaboration with the province of Limburg, and is located at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen, The Netherlands. More information:

Source: Brightlands Materials Center


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