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3D FABRICATION OF POLYMER BASED

SOLAR CELLS AT INDIVIDUAL LEVEL


By
Ankit Varma
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
Clemson University

Introduction
Additive manufacturing is the process of generating 3dimensional parts using computer aided design files of the
product.
The genesis of additive manufacturing can be traced back to
1960s, when Herbert Voelcker developed mathematical theory
& algorithms for solid modelling.
These theories and algorithms later formed the basis for
everything that was designed and built using CAD systems.
In the 1980s, Carl Deckard further developed the idea and
invented the process of selective laser sintering (SLS) at
University of Texas, Austin.
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The early stages of the SLS machine that would later be called
Betsy.
Deckard filled a small box with powder by hand using a
device similar to a salt shaker while a computer ran the
scanner on the table.
A part (polymer material) which was produced using the
above machine can be seen in the right hand figure.

Increasing number of researchers were developing the process


into a commercially feasible process.
The first commercial SLS machine was developed by DTM
corporation, U.S.A in 1992. It was named as Selective Laser
Sintering Sinter-station 2000 and is shown below

Assessing the huge monetary profits available in the SLS


machine, many giant industries started developing their own
SLS machines.
Stratasys, 3D Systems are some of the many industries that
pioneered the methodology of 3-D manufacturing especially
SLS method.
The laser sintering method was further developed for using
powdered metals and alloys. This process of using metals for
laser sintering came to be known as Direct Metal Laser
Sintering (DMLS).
At present, laser sintering is the only additive manufacturing
method which utilizes metal for manufacturing products.

Selective Laser Sintering


The process of SLS can be described as the manufacturing of
desired product by selectively machining the cross-sectional
area of each layer of the product using powdered raw
material.
The product is first designed using a CAD software and then
this model is divided into a number of layers of thickness less
then 1mm.
The division of CAD model into layers aids the laser scanner
in manufacturing the desire product.
The powder is brought to glass transition temperature prior to
machining by the laser.
After machining, each layer gets fused to its underlying layer
and the shape corresponds to a cross-section of the layered
product.
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Major issues in SLS process


Distortion and curling of the fused layer due to high residual
stresses generated as a result of high temperature gradient.
Poor quality of surface finish and dimensional accuracy.
Slower build time.
Porosity of the sintered parts is a major problem especially in
parts manufactured for biomedical applications.

Literature Review
A lot of research activity is going on in the field of laser
sintering. Some of the current research in the area of SLS
method is mentioned below.
To study the impact of heat on residual stresses and
deformations, evaluate the structural effects and quantify the
resulting stresses, Finite Element Analysis approach is utilized
by Branner, et al. [1].
Booth, et al.[2] carried out research for enhancing the
monitoring of process and also the control of the process by
designing & developing a high temperature selective laser
sintering machine.

Yang et al. [3] optimized the SLS process with respect to


factors such as part orientation, layer thickness identification
and laser scanning directions in order to minimize the process
time and enhance the surface accuracy.
A three-dimensional thermo mechanical finite element model
has been developed by Frank et al. [4] for calculating the
thermal deformation in additively manufactured parts based on
slice thickness, part orientation, scanning speed, and material
properties.
Pereira et al. [5] researched for increasing printing volumes,
maintaining the relative accuracy level and reducing the global
manufacturing time by using multiple beam delivery systems
(in series in parallel or both), new powder recoater, a pair of
high frequency piezoelectric actuators.
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Silva et al. [6] analyzed how laser scan spacing and powder
layer thickness affect the morphology and mechanical
properties and dimensional deviations related to the digital
model of sintered scaffolds.

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Proposed approach
Use of two independent laser sources using skin-core strategy.
A laser source with a small focus diameter and appropriate
power at relatively slow speed is used to fuse the outer surface
(skin) of the part.
This results in better resolution at the surface of the part and
thus gives much better surface finish and dimensional
accuracy of the manufactured part.
Simultaneously a laser beam with bigger focus diameter (up to
10 times the previous) can be used to fuse the inner core of
the part (core).
Thus this strategy can enhance the build speed and also
improve the dimensional accuracy and surface finish of the
manufactured part.
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Rapid heating and cooling of the powered material results in


very high thermal gradient which in turn cause high residual
stresses in the built part.
These residual stresses can curl and wrap overhang structures
and distort the part geometry.
Support structures or anchors are fused into the substrate plate
at different required locations to forcibly hold the fused layers
at required place and avoid distortion.

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Fig. 2. Overhanging geometries most prone to warpage


during SLM.

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Large flat surfaces are more prone to warpage and thus more
support structure is required to be built under those areas to
keep the geometry uniform.
However adding more support structure means more post
processing time and cost to remove the support structure.
Produced part can distort after the removal of support
structure.
Heat treatment can be used to relieve the stress before the
removal of support structure. Alternating magnetic treatment
can also be used to relieve the stress in the produced part.

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References
1. Zaeh, Michael F., and Gregor Branner. "Investigations on
residual stresses and deformations in selective laser
melting." Production Engineering 4, no. 1 (2010): 35-45.
2. Fish, Scott, John C. Booth, Steven T. Kubiak, William W.
Wroe, Adam D. Bryant, Daniel R. Moser, and Joseph J.
Beaman. "Design and subsystem development of a high
temperature selective laser sintering machine for enhanced
process monitoring and control." Additive Manufacturing 5
(2015): 60-67.
3. Verma, Anoop, Satish Tyagi, and Kai Yang. "Modeling and
optimization of direct metal laser sintering process." The
International
Journal
of Advanced
Manufacturing
Technology 77, no. 5-8 (2014): 847-860.
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4. Paul, Ratnadeep, Sam Anand, and Frank Gerner. "Effect of


thermal deformation on part errors in metal powder based additive
manufacturing processes." Journal of Manufacturing Science and
Engineering 136, no. 3 (2014): 031009.
5. Pereira, M., and U. Thombansen. "Contributions for the next
generation of 3D metal printing machines." In SPIE LASE, pp.
935318-935318. International Society for Optics and Photonics, 2015.
6. Pereira, T. F., M. A. C. Silva, M. F. Oliveira, I. A. Maia, J. V. L.
Silva, M. F. Costa, and R. M. S. M. Thir. "Effect of process
parameters on the properties of selective laser sintered Poly (3hydroxybutyrate) scaffolds for bone tissue engineering." Virtual and
Physical Prototyping 7, no. 4 (2012): 275-285.

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