Large-Scale 3D Printing with Tubes

Hadley Brooks, Nick Hopkins, and Ruben Janse van Vuuren
University of Central Lancashire Preston,
United Kingdom
Winner of an HP Workstation.

The 3D printing industry has grown quickly over the last decade with average compound annual growth rates of around 27 percent leading to a market size of $17.7 billion in 2022. The use of 3D printing for large-scale polymer objects is also a high growth area but is constrained by technical issues that arise when printers are scaled up to extrude higher volumes from large diameter nozzles. Not only do material costs increase dramatically, but also materials issues such as contraction, warping, and cracking increase. Printing issues such as long cooling times, sagging, bridging, and supports also become much more problematic.

In nature you often find tubular structures where high strength to weight ratios and efficient material use are required. The tube 3D printing process uses the same idea to print large strong parts with minimal materials and no assembly required. Tubes cool much faster than solid rods, so it is possible to print in free air without supports.

Case studies have shown material reductions over 60 percent are possible with this method. With the novel extruder design, it is also possible to print tubes at 90 degrees from the nozzle axis. This means the tubular structures can be printed using conventional 3D-printing software and simple cartesian 3D printers.

Printing with tubes also means fillers are not required to reduce material costs and thermal issues. This means the printed objects are much easier to recycle if needed. It may also be possible to print with challenging single use semi-crystalline polymers such as HDPE and PET, saving them from landfill. The tubes can easily be sealed to create airtight chambers.

This is a perfect solution if buoyancy is desirable. The surface of the tubes can be filled and coated to improve appearance and strength.

Applications for the 3D tube printing process are extremely broad, depending on the polymers used and the geometry of the tubes. These include watercraft, furniture, tooling forms, lighting products, vases, and many more.

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Honorable Mentions


Dervis Gursoy, SprayWell,
Madison, WI

This agricultural automation product is used in spraying applications of specialty crops such as citrus trees, nuts, and ornamentals. It retrofits to conventional air-blast sprayers and automatically actuates nozzles on/off by detecting crop architecture in millimeter resolution via emitting and receiving light beams with LiDAR technology. With an average of 25 percent savings in chemicals usage, it provides an economically viable solution for specialty crop farmers.

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DOWSILTM TC-6015 Thermal Encapsulant

Yan Huang, Dorab Bhagwagar, Linfei Wang, Fred Feng, Tong Wu, Elsa Xie, Cliff Li, Terry Tang, Khan Zhang, Frank Wang, Emily Zhao, Cathy Tang, Nick Fan, and Zhihua Liu,
Dow Chemical Company, Shanghai, China

The 1.5 W/mK thermal conductive encapsulant provides exceptional thermal management with no filler sedimentation, primerless self-adhesion, lower density, and long-term reliability. These advantages provide sustainability in manufacturing and application. Over the next decade, it is estimated that TC-6015 will be used to safely remove heat and improve functioning of inverters used in generation of 530 GWs of renewable energy.

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Damage-Tolerant Anticorrosion Coating for Steel

Muhammad Rahman, Sandhya Susarla, Md. Abid Shariar Saadi, Nancy Cui, and Pulickel Ajayan,
Rice University, Houston, TX

There is an urgent need for an effective corrosion-resistant coating to protect structural materials from a diverse array of corrosive species. A lightweight low-cost sulfur-selenium (S-Se) alloy serves as an excellent corrosion-resistant coating with protection efficiency of ~99.9 percent for steel in a wide range of environments. The coating is strongly adhesive, mechanically robust, and demonstrates excellent damage recovery properties.

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Electric Arc Pseudoalloy Coatings

Nataliia Vigilianska, Burlachenko Oleksii, and Grishchenko Oleksandr,
E.O. Paton Electric Welding, Kyiv, Ukraine

Electric arc spraying allows producing pseudoalloy coatings from non-fusing metals with the required properties and a wide range of combinations of their components. This technology can provide the pseudoalloy coatings by using the alloy-forming components. A short time of contact of particles of the components (milliseconds) prevents development of the interaction processes.

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See the rest of this year's winners: