Processing and characterization of carbon black-filled electrically conductive nylon-12 nanocomposites produced by selective laser sintering
Athreya, Siddharth Ram
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Electrically conductive polymer composites are suitable for use in the manufacture of antistatic products and components for electronic interconnects, fuel cells and electromagnetic shielding. The most widely used processing techniques for producing electrically conductive polymer composites place an inherent constraint on the geometry and architecture of the part that can be fabricated. Hence, this thesis investigates selective laser sintering (SLS), a rapid prototyping technique, to fabricate and characterize electrically conductive nanocomposites of Nylon-12 filled with 4% by weight of carbon black. The objective of the dissertation was to study the effects of the SLS process on the microstructure and properties of the nanocomposite. The effect of laser power and the scan speed on the flexural modulus and part density of the nanocomposite was studied. The set of parameters that yielded the maximum flexural modulus and part density were used to fabricate specimens to study the tensile, impact, rheological and viscoelastic properties. The electrical conductivity of the nanocomposite was also investigated. The thermo-mechanical properties and electrical conductivity of the nanocomposites produced by SLS were compared with those produced by extrusion-injection molding. The structure and morphology of the SLS-processed and extrusion-injection molded nanocomposites were characterized using gas pycnometry, gel permeation chromatography, differential scanning calorimetry, electron microscopy, polarized light microscopy and x-ray diffraction. Physical models were developed to explain the effects of the processing technique on the structure and properties of the nanocomposites. Finally, a one-dimensional heat transfer model of the SLS process that accounted for sintering-induced densification and thermal degradation of the polymer was implemented in order to study the variation in part density with respect to the energy density of the laser beam. This dissertation demonstrated that SLS can be successfully used to fabricate electrically conductive polymer nanocomposites with a relatively low percolation threshold. This capability combined with the ability of SLS to fabricate complicated three-dimensional objects without part-specific tooling could open up several new opportunities.