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Continuous-fibre 3D printing out-of-autoclave process

News International-French

7 Mar 2019

Continuous Fibre 3D Printing (CF3D) combines composite materials with a 3D printing process, creating a mouldless out-of-autoclave process. The result is a drastic reduction in cost and lead times.

Continuous-fibre 3D printing out-of-autoclave process

Continuous-fibre 3D printing out-of-autoclave process

The CF3D patented technology is a revolutionary composites manufacturing process. Rather than using costly prepreg fibre, high-performance dry continuous fibres (AS4, IM7, T1100, etc.) are impregnated with a rapid-curing thermoset inside the print head. The head is attached to an industrial robot controlled by the company’s CF3D software. The fully-impregnated fibre is pulled through the print head where, upon discharge, a high-intensity energy source (e.g. UV, heat, etc.) is directed at the wet fibre, curing the fibre(s) instantaneously and resulting in a true 3D composite part. As a result of the fibre being cured immediately after discharge, the CF3D technology does not require moulds or other support materials.

Airfoil Print with Continuous Fiberglass

This enables on-the-fly design changes, reduced lead times, and complex designs to be printed with strong and light composite materials. CF3D is not limited to stacking 2D laminates and can print fibres out of the XY plane into the Z direction. This opens design possibilities and enables load path optimization by discretely printing fibres in the direction of principal stresses and strains. Multiple parts can now become single parts, reducing fasteners and making parts lighter and more efficient.

3D printed application

3D printed applications

Key Benefits:
> Eliminates expensive capital equipment such as moulds, autoclaves and ovens
> Automates fibre laying and removes costly manual labour
> Leverages low-cost, high-performance dry fibre impregnated in-situ
> Enables on-the-fly design changes and complex designs with composites
> CF3D can directly print functionality into composite parts

The CF3D process reduces intensive manual labour and removes the need for expensive capital equipment such as autoclaves and ovens, further reducing the costs and barriers to entry for the manufacture of composite parts. CF3D parts are also printed net shape, which eliminates material waste and reduces costs even further. Since CF3D utilizes dry fibres and impregnates in-situ, the cost of the materials used in the process is exponentially (+50x) lower than prepregs, which are commonly used in traditional composite manufacturing techniques. CF3D can print both structural fibres (e.g. carbon, Kevlar, etc.) and functional fibres (e.g. fibre optics, metallic wire, etc).

This innovation has been selected as a finalist for the JEC Innovation Awards 2019 in the 3D Printing category. The JEC Innovation Awards - organized by the JEC Group - are recognized as the industry’s most prestigious awards that identify, promote and reward the most innovative composite projects worldwide. The award winners will be announced during JEC World 2019 on 13 March at 4.30pm.

Their associated partners are Air Force Research Lab, FCA / Comau, Lockheed Martin, Siemens.