Single-Point Incremental Forming of Two Biocompatible Polymers: An Insight into Their Thermal and Structural Properties

Sheets of polycaprolactone (PCL) and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) were fabricated and shaped by the Single-Point Incremental Forming process (SPIF). The performance of these biocompatible polymers in SPIF was assessed through the variation of four main parameters: the diameter of the forming tool, the spindle speed, the feed rate, and the step size based on a Box–Behnken design of experiments of four variables and three levels. The design of experiments allowed us to identify the parameters that most affect the forming of PCL and UHMWPE. The study was completed by means of a deep characterization of the thermal and structural properties of both polymers. These properties were correlated to the performance of the polymers observed in SPIF, and it was found that the polymer chains are oriented as a consequence of the SPIF processing. Moreover, by X-ray diffraction it was proved that polymer chains behave differently on each surface of the fabricated parts, since the chains on the surface in contact with the forming tool are oriented horizontally, while on the opposite surface they are oriented in the vertical direction. The unit cell of UHMWPE is distorted, passing from an orthorhombic cell to a monoclinic due to the slippage between crystallites. This slippage between crystallites was observed in both PCL and UHMWPE, and was identified as an alpha star thermal transition located in the rubbery region between the glass transition and the melting point of each polymer ​
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