Rotational 3D printing of damage-tolerant composites with programmable mechanics [Engineering]
Natural composites exhibit exceptional mechanical performance that often arises from complex fiber arrangements within continuous matrices. Inspired by these natural systems, we developed a rotational 3D printing method that enables spatially controlled orientation of short fibers in polymer matrices solely by varying the nozzle rotation speed relative to the printing speed. Using this method, we fabricated carbon fiber–epoxy composites composed of volume elements (voxels) with programmably defined fiber arrangements, including adjacent regions with orthogonally and helically oriented fibers that lead to nonuniform strain and failure as well as those with purely helical fiber orientations akin to natural composites that exhibit enhanced damage tolerance. Our approach broadens the design, microstructural complexity, and performance space for fiber-reinforced composites through site-specific optimization of their fiber orientation, strain, failure, and damage tolerance.