Thickness-Dependent Permeation Properties of Quenched and Standard Laser-Sintered Polyamide 12 Sheets
The laser sintering of polymers is an additive manufacturing technology that is becoming increasingly established in the industrial environment. This study investigated the thickness-dependent permeation properties of laser-sintered (LS) polymers as required to design and produce components with a special barrier performance to gaseous substances. Helium and oxygen permeation experiments were carried out on quenched and standard LS polyamide 12 (PA12) sheets generated with two, four, six, and eight layers at a constant powder layer thickness of 100 µm. The structural properties of the sheets were examined by differential scanning calorimetry, light microscopy, and X-ray micro-computed tomography. A reduction in thickness resulted in higher diffusion coefficients for both types of LS sheets. An explanation could be the large volume fraction of poorly sintered powder particles adhering to the surfaces and incomplete melting and low consolidation of the polymer at small thicknesses. The thickness-dependency of the solubility coefficients was the opposite, especially for the standard LS sheets, which might be related to the larger pore volume in thicker sheets. As both effects compensated for each other, nearly constant permeation coefficients for all thicknesses were observed. The results provide further insights into different material characteristics of thin LS PA12 structures and offer new information on factors relevant to their solution and diffusion behavior.