Rethinking digital manufacturing with polymers

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Science  15 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6369, pp. 1384-1385
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1351

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Additive manufacturing (AM) is poised to radically change the way objects are manufactured, ranging from critical applications such as aircraft components and medical devices to more commonplace, yet highly engineered, products such as running shoes. The ability to produce three-dimensional (3D) objects from a digital template can have advantages over traditional manufacturing techniques (such as machining, injection molding, and thermoforming), including mass customization, formation of complex part geometries that are not readily molded or cast, on-demand inventory, elimination of tooling costs, and reduced lead time. To realize these advantages, digital manufacturing requires materials that not only achieve the requisite mechanical properties and economic targets but are also designed to work in software-controlled, data-centric, fabrication technologies. We focus here on this challenge in the realm of polymeric materials.