Bernal Seminar by Professor Gianluca Cicala University of Catania Italy

Wednesday, 6 February 2019, 12h00, MSG-025 MSSI Building Extension


Engineering Polymers for Additive Manufacturing:  From Laboratory to Industrial Applications


The widespread diffusion of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies combined with the desire to tailor material properties gave rise to an increasing number of research projects focusing on new material development for AM. Two of the widely used techniques at desktop level are the Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) and the Digital Light Projector (DLP). However, the choice of commercial materials for FDM and DLP is still limited to few polymers only. In most cases, desktop FDM machines process PLA and ABS only while DLP relies mostly on acrylate or epoxy resins cured by UV.

In the last years, there was an increasing interest in developing tailored equipment to work with engineering polymers like PC, PEI and PEEK to print functional parts. Industrial FDM machines can work with such polymers but still only some filament types are available leaving the user a limited choice of printable materials. Some approaches to overcome these limits were achieved through the development of FDM equipment using pellets rather than filaments. In addition, an increasing interest towards multifunctional polymers filled with nanoparticles was driving research into the development of novel materials which can allow additive manufacturing of novel multi-functional devices. As an example, 3D Printed Electronics – multi-material, heterogeneous, electronic structures – exhibiting non-conventional 3D component placement and conductor routing have been presented in the literature. Other interesting developments regarded the development of metal plastic FDM technologies which combined polymer processing with metals performances after sintering procedure.

Professor Cicala’s research group focused on the development of a whole range of materials for FDM ranging from engineering polymers, like PEEK and PEI, to recycled polymers like PE or PLA. All the polymers and their microcomposites were transformed into filaments of 1.75 mm diameters using two pilot extrusion lines. Some of these new filaments were developed and tested by the company Roboze which launched on the market a professional printer to process PEEK for industrial oriented applications. Polymer blends were studied for FDM too. Other developments achieved by the group were focused on DLP resins exhibiting improved thermal properties which were achieved by using dual curing. The need for novel polymer blends to balance processing and thermomechanical properties for FDM and DLP was demonstrated leading to the development of novel systems with potential application in several industrial fields.

This talk will present the state of the art for the materials used in FDM and DLP with a special focus on polymers and composites developed for functional applications. Most of these developments were achieved within the project COMMAND (Composites for Additive Manufacturing). Some insights on new testing approaches and protocols for the characterization of FDM materials developed in the group will also be presented.


Professor Gianluca Cicala is full professor of Materials Science and Technology at the University of Catania, Italy. He is currently Coordinator for the Masters degree course Chemical Engineering for Industrial Sustainability. Professor Cicala started his career working at the ICI Wilton International Centre on projects coordinated by the Cytec Engineered Materials group. He worked on the Priform technology based on the use of soluble fibers for toughening of advanced composites and carried out studies on the toughening of epoxy resins for RTM within his PhD thesis entitled “Novel technologies for composites processed by RTM”.

In 2004 he assumed the role of lecturer at the University of Catania. The same year he was awarded the National PRIN grant “Synthesis and development of nanocomposite materials for packaging based on novel functionalized copolymers based on PET and PEN” as local coordinator. In 2007 he assumed the role of National Coordinator for the PRIN grant “Development of selective polymeric membranes for gas separation: optimization by the integrated use of the synthesis, the characterization and the multiscale molecular modelling techniques” and in 2011 he was again awarded the role of National Coordinator of the PRIN grant “Nanofilled soluble textiles for RTM composites (NanoSolTex)”. Within the project NanoSolTex, novel electrospun fiber filled with nanofillers for multifunctional composites were developed. From 2012 to 2016 he coordinated 4 PON projects totalling 3M Euro in funding. In 2014 he coordinated the Regional Projects INTEP and MEDNETNA for the University of Catania for the purchase and setting up of equipment for advanced characterization and processing of polymers. A total of 2M Euro was invested within this project. Recently, he has coordinated a joint project with Polytecnic of Milan focused on the development of composites for Additive Manufacturing.

Professor Cicala has authored and/or co-authored 86 papers indexed on Scopus, 5 papers in national journals with editorial board, 5 chapters on books, 75 proceedings on national and international conferences, 1 National Patent and 1 International patent. The papers published by the Professor Cicala have received a total of 1140 citations and his h-index is equal to 22. His research activity is focused on: Development of novel production process for composites; Polymeric blends; Eco-composites; Auxetics; Material characterization. He and his team were awarded the Polymer Challenge 2008 award for the innovative technology for the RTM manufacturing of cellular auxetic composites.


DATE:                    Wednesday, 6 February 2019

TIME:                    12h00

VENUE:                MSG-025 MSSI Building Extension

Tea/coffee will be available at 11h45

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