I am currently researching polymers in GMU’s Tribology and Surface Mechanics laboratory continuing research I started in the Spring of 2019. My current research is titled, "Additively Manufactured Dry Nanoparticle Lubricant Infused ABS Polymer" and the basic premise is that we reduce ABS plastic into a polymer soup using acetone and mixing very small particles of dry lubricant, for example graphite, into the polymer. The objective of this is to attempt to reduce the polymer’s coefficient of friction. Currently polymers have a very high friction coefficient which makes them non-viable for high load gear trains, as such a system would wear out rapidly. Other than their high friction coefficient polymers have a superior strength to weight ratio to modern steel gear trains, thus overcoming this hurdle should make polymer gear trains viable in high load use cases. Of course, ABS is not the strongest polymer for gears. Thus, I am also exploring mixing polymers to help decrease the friction coefficient and increase wear resistance further. The idea here is to use the dry lubricant infused ABS as a carrier as the other plastics we are mixing with the ABS are more difficult to directly add dry lubricants to.
Currently I am in the process of conducting a literature review to determine which polymers I want to use alongside the ABS for this research. Over the next few weeks I will be constructing a gear wear testing apparatus designed by an OSCAR research group in the Spring of 2019, will begin fabricating samples of different concentrations of dry lubricant, and additive plastic. In order to make our samples we first dissolve ABS in acetone and then stir nanoparticle lubricants into the resulting slurry. The acetone is allowed to dissolve off in a fume hood resulting in a solid block of particle infused ABS plastic. This block is then shredded into ¼” pieces and poured into our Noztek 3D printer filament maker. We then use this filament in any 3D printer to fabricate whatever shapes we desire.