Effect of Flow-Induced Molecular Alignment on Welding and Strength of Polymer Interfaces

MAG Cunha and MO Robbins, MACROMOLECULES, 53, 8417-8427 (2020).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.macromol.0c01508

Structures formed by fused filament fabrication are often substantially weaker than those made with conventional techniques and fail at the welds between successive layers. One factor that may influence strength is flow-induced alignment of the deposited material. A recent work suggests that alignment reduces the entanglement density and thus should accelerate welding by diffusion. Here, coarse-grained molecular simulations are used to test the effect of molecular alignment on diffusion and weld strength. While standard measures show a decrease of the entanglement density with alignment, there is no change in the rate of diffusion normal to the interface or the rate of formation of entanglements across the interface. The time for chain reorientation also remains equal to the equilibrium disentanglement time tau(d). Despite this, simulations of mechanical tests show that welds formed from aligned states are weaker until several tau(d). This is not because the weld itself is weaker, but because the aligned material near the weld is weaker than the unaligned material. The maximum shear strength and tensile fracture energy of welded systems are the same as bulk systems with the same alignment.

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