Amphiphilic, thixotropic additives for extrusion-based 3D printing of silica-reinforced silicone†
The ability to utilize extrusion-based, direct ink write (DIW) 3D printing to create silica-reinforced silicones with complex structures could expand their utility in industrial and biomedical applications. Sylgard 184, a common Pt-cure silicone, lacks the thixotropic behavior necessary for effective printing and its hydrophobicity renders cured structures susceptible to biofouling. Herein, we evaluated the efficacy of various PEO-silane amphiphiles (PEO-SAs) as thixotropic and surface modifying additives in Sylgard 184. Eight amphiphilic PEO-SAs of varying architecture (e.g. linear, star, and graft), crosslinkability, and PEO content were evaluated. Modified formulations were also prepared with additional amounts of silica filler, both hexamethyldisilazane (HMDS)-treated and dimethyldichlorosilane (DiMeDi)-treated types. Numerous PEO-SA modified silicone formulations demonstrated effective water-driven surface hydrophilicity that was generally diminished with the addition of HMDS-treated silica filler. While increased yield stress was observed for PEO-SA modified silicones with added HMDS-treated filler, none achieved the initial target for 3D printing (>1000 Pa). Only the formulations containing the DiMeDi-treated filler (17.3 wt%) were able to surpass this value. These formulations were then tested for their thixotropic properties and all surpassed the targets for recovered storage modulus (G′) (>1000 Pa) and loss factor (<0.8). In particular, the triblock linear PEO-SA produced exceptionally high recovered G′, low loss factor, and substantial water-driven restructuring to form a hydrophilic surface. Combined, these results demonstrate the potential of silicones modified with PEO-SA surface-modifying additives (SMAs) for extrusion-based, DIW 3D printing applications.