The limited availability of materials with special properties represents one of the main limitations to a wider application of polymer-based additive manufacturing technologies. Filled resins are usually not suitable for vat photo-polymerization techniques such as stereolithography (SLA) or digital light processing (DLP) due to a strong increment of viscosity derived from the presence of rigid particles within the reactive suspension. In the present paper, the possibility to in situ generate silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) starting from a homogeneous liquid system containing a well dispersed silver salt, which is subsequently reduced to metallic silver during stereolithographic process, is reported. The simultaneous photo-induced cross-linking of the acrylic resin produces a filled thermoset resin with thermal-mechanical properties significantly enhanced with respect to the unfilled resin, even at very low AgNPs concentrations. With this approach, the use of silver salts having carbon-carbon double bonds, such as silver acrylate and silver methacrylate, allows the formation of a nanocomposite structure in which the release of by-products is minimized due to the active role of all the reactive components in the three dimensional (3D)-printing processes. The synergy, between this nano-technology and the geometrical freedom offered by SLA, could open up a wide spectrum of potential applications for such a material, for example in the field of food packaging and medical and healthcare sectors, considering the well-known antimicrobial effects of silver nanoparticles.
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