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3D Printed Bulletproof Plastic Cubes

Interesting Engineering reports on recent developments announced by a team operating out of Rice University in Houston. Apparently, this Rice University team have 3D printed bulletproof plastic layered cubes. “The material could withstand a bullet traveling at 5.8 kilometers per second with only minor damage to its second layer.”

These cubes were initially developed when “the researchers decided to test a theoretical structure called ‘tubulanes.’ This structure was predicted back in 1993 by chemist Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas and physicist Douglas Galvao of the State University of Campinas, Brazil.” Both these scientists are now also co-principal investigators on this new 3D printed bulletproof plastic cubes announcement.

“Tubulanes are theoretical microscopic structures comprised of crosslinked carbon nanotubes and the researchers sought to test if they would have the same properties when scaled up enough to be 3D printed.” They were successful.

The Rice University team was able to prove this “by shooting a bullet traveling at 5.8 kilometers per second through two cubes. One cube was made from a solid polymer and the other from a polymer printed with a tubulanes structure.”

The “solid polymer block was left with cracks propagating through the entire structure, while the tubulanes cube stopped the projectile by its second layer.” The team says “it was the 3D printing method, which allowed them to take advantage of tubulanes’ unique properties.”

As Rice Graduate Student and lead author of the announcement Seyed Mohammad Sajadi explains: “there are plenty of theoretical systems people cannot synthesize. They’ve remained impractical and elusive. But with 3D printing, we can still take advantage of the predicted mechanical properties because they’re the result of the topology, not the size.”

This means the new material has great potential in industries requiring tough but light materials.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Interesting Engineering

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