Reversible polymer networks (RPN) based on the thermoreversible Diels-Alder cycloaddition reaction between furan and maleimide groups have proven their potential as self-healing materials. These RPN form a polymer network structure that can be reversibly broken down at elevated temperatures or by dissolution and swelling in a compatible solvent. In contrast to irreversibly crosslinked polymer networks, these RPN can be processed at elevated temperatures similar to thermoplastic polymers. Filaments can be extruded from the RPN at temperatures around the reversible gel transition, which are then used for fused filament fabrication (FFF) to create (soft) robotic actuators or to print sensors. In parallel, powders are produced to investigate the selective laser sintering (SLS) of the RPN.
Additive manufacturing is a very useful manufacturing technique for fast prototyping, which allows more design freedom and possible high precision and resolution fabrication with low material waste. The primary goal is to manufacture robotic actuators and (integrated) sensors with great precision and increasing complexity. The properties of the manufactured products are evaluated and correlated to the processing conditions and the structure formation during processing and manufacturing. The self-healing property of the actuators and recovery of actuation and sensory performance are assessed for practical application and integration.