3D Printed Porous Media Columns with Fine Control of Column Packing Geometry
In this paper we demonstrate, for the first time, the use of 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing or rapid prototyping) to create porous media with precisely defined packing morphologies, directly from computer aided design (CAD) models. We used CAD to design perfectly ordered beds with octahedral beads (115 µm apothem) packed in a simple cubic configuration and monoliths with hexagonal channels (150 µm apothem) in parallel and herringbone arrangements. The models were then printed by UV curing of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene powder layers. Each porous bed was printed at 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 mL volumes, within a complete column, including internal flow distributors and threaded 10–32 flow connectors. Close replication of CAD models was achieved. The resultant individual octahedral beads were highly uniform in size, with apothems of 113.6 ± 1.9 µm, while the monolith hexagonal cross-section channels had apothems of 148.2 ± 2.0 µm. Residence time distribution measurements show that the beds largely behaved as expected from their design void volumes. Radial and fractal flow distributor designs were also tested. The former displayed poor flow distribution in parallel and herringbone pore columns, while the fractal distributors provided uniform flow distribution over the entire cross section. The results show that 3D printing is a feasible method for producing precisely controlled porous media. We expect our approach to revolutionize not only fundamental studies of flow in porous media but methods of chromatography column production.