The aim of this work was the development of a thermoplastic/thermosetting combined system with a novel production technique. A poly(caprolactone) (PCL) structure has been designed and produced by fused filament fabrication, and impregnated with an epoxy matrix. The mechanical properties, fracture toughness, and thermal healing capacities of this blend (EP-PCL(3D)) were compared with those of a conventional melt mixed poly(caprolactone)/epoxy blend (EP-PCL). The fine dispersion of the PCL domains within the epoxy in the EP-PCL samples was responsible of a noticeable toughening effect, while in the EP-PCL(3D) structure the two phases showed an independent behavior, and fracture propagation in the epoxy was followed by the progressive yielding of the PCL domains. This peculiar behavior of EP-PCL(3D) system allowed the PCL phase to express its full potential as energy absorber under impact conditions. Optical microscope images on the fracture surfaces of the EP-PCL(3D) samples revealed that during fracture toughness tests the crack mainly propagated within the epoxy phase, while PCL contributed to energy absorption through plastic deformation. Due to the selected PCL concentration in the blends (35 vol %) and to the discrepancy between the mechanical properties of the constituents, the healing efficiency values of the two systems were rather limited.
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