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CRP Technology (Modena) presents WindForm™ XT, a new material for selective laser sintering destined to revolutionize the rapid-prototyping sector.
(Published on May 2005 – JEC Magazine #17)
WindForm™ XT is a new-generation polyamide-andcarbon- based composite material for rapid manufacturing. The material offers high strength, extremely high breakage resistance, excellent surface finish, resistance to extreme wear and tear, and optimum reproduction of details. It is ideal for aerodynamic applications – both prototyping and final applications – that require light and stiff materials able to resist the applied loads.
This black material has an alluring look appreciable in many design applications. It is particularly suited to applications that require superior mechanical properties, extremely high performance, and rapid timing. It can be used to create parts that are light and thin, without compromising aerodynamic reliability and efficiency. Its performance is so elevated that, combined with selective laser sintering (SLS) technology, it makes it possible to build complex parts not otherwise obtainable with traditional technology.
Ideal for SLS
Windform™ XT is the ideal material for SLS, which is the easiest, most convenient and fastest high-performance technology available on the market. The resulting parts exhibit an extreme detail definition and a highly attractive finish. They do not require any post-processing, except a polishing step for optimizing the desired surface finish.
Moreover, SLS does not require any support for complex part geometries. It is therefore possible to obtain the most complicated shapes without any problem.
The superior mechanical characteristics and stability of the material greatly reduce the risk of deformation, thus shortening typical SLS cooling times, especially for thinner parts. The new material typically allows up to 15% reduction in SLS construction times (SLS already has 50-60% shorter lead times than traditional construction technologies). It is also extremely easy to work with: it does not require any changes to the machines’ hardware or software, only some minor adjustments of standard parameters. Another valuable characteristic is the material’s smoothness. Being very hard, it lends itself to perfect smoothness and it is possible to obtain a high-gloss finish with any plastic polishing product.
JEC Composites Magazine: When exactly was CRP Technology created?
Franco Cevolini: CRP Technology is an R&D firm that was created in 1996, as a spin off from Roberto Cevolini & C. From Roberto Cevolini & C., CRP Technology has inherited thirty years of experience in high-precision and high-tech mechanical manufacturing, not to mention extreme reliability and quality which have made it a leader in its sector, a supplier and partner of top organisations in the international racing market.
J.C.M.: How would you define CRP Technology and what does the company actually do?
F. C.: Today, CRP is an independent firm of a new type and has already become a point of reference for firms whose profession is high tech. CRP is based on innovative, new and carefully studied ideas, supported by a highly qualified and strongly motivated team. Our continuously growing turnover is not only generated by the sales of parts produced by rapid prototyping and the complete manufacture of mechanical parts for racing sports cars, but also by the production and commercialization of laser sintering materials such as Windform.
J.C.M.: What is rapid prototyping?
F. C.: Rapid prototyping consists in creating prototypes in rapid timing. The world of rapid prototyping is quite vast; there are many different types of technology. CRP has opted for selective laser sintering. The prototype is created by the continuous layering of polymeric material. In a room with an inert atmosphere and a constant temperature, a roller rotating in the opposite direction to its motion spreads a thin layer of powder on a platform, which has a laser ray directed at it to sinterise the material, supplying the necessary Dt to locally melt the powders. This system does not need any support because the part is sustained by the non-sinterised powders.
J.C.M.: If I’ve understood correctly, you can move directly from the idea to the final part. Is this correct?
F. C.: Exactly
J.C.M.: Have you ever thought of using this advanced technology for everyday life, or for the part of the market which is not involved in high technology such as racing?
F. C.: CRP has been putting this technology to such use since 1996. In fact, we have an extremely diversified customer base in addition to the racing world: electronics, household goods, design, motor mechanics, just to name a few. The expansion to new markets is our marketing focus.
J.C.M.: So, why should an organisation which uses prototypes convert from traditional prototyping to rapid prototyping?
F. C.: Rapid prototyping is perfect when you need prototypes in an extremely short timeframe and, more importantly, when you need to verify the functionality of a complex product without having to resort to pilot moulds, which are slow and costly.
Therefore, you have the possibility to check and correct errors straight away during the planning phase: for example, the hightech world is constantly innovating and rapid prototyping allows the firm to keep up to date with the times.
J.C.M.: Let’s talk about costs: how much would such an innovation cost for a firm using your technology?
F. C.: For a firm that has never used time compression technology, complex costs decrease dramatically: initial costs would probably be relatively high, but there is no comparison with traditional systems if you consider the overall project. You have the possibility of being present on the market immediately, with extremely complex projects.
J.C.M.: Are you saying that, in addition to fulfilling the customer’s initial request, you supply a complete service?
F. C.: For firms approaching rapid prototyping for the first time, we can supply an advanced technology support network to help them plan their projects. And for those who already use this technology, we provide co-design services.
J.C.M.: In addition to providing technology, your firm is a leader in the development of materials for the rapid prototyping technology. Last December, you launched a new-generation material which aroused the interest of firms operating worldwide in the most diverse sectors, from motoring, aerospace and navigation to design. Why such a success? And overall, Mr Cevolini, why is this material so special, what is it all about?
F. C.: Yes, it’s all about Windform XT, the first carbon fibre material for SLS, which offers unique characteristics in the rapid prototyping environment. In this case, the word “prototyping” is an understatement as we are talking about rapid manufacturing. With Windform XT, you go directly from the 3D file to the finished part in an extremely short period of time.
J.C.M.: A kind of “magic wand for materials”! How did you manage to achieve such a goal?
F. C.: In 1996, after understanding selective laser sintering, I started creating a material which would have the mechanical and technical characteristics I needed. This is how Windform GF was born, a polyamide-based composite material with added aluminium and glass. Windform PRO then followed, which is also a polyamide-based composite material with aluminium, but with different characteristics. Next came Windform PRO B, containing carbon in powder, which is excellent for the creation of prototypes for wind tunnel testing.
J.C.M.: You mentioned rapid manufacturing. Can you explain in more detail what it is about?
F. C.: It is a type of technology that is perfect for short-run parts with complex design and extreme shapes, or when functional parts are needed in record timing.
J.C.M.: Do you already have a new project for the immediate future?
F. C.: Our R&D department is ALWAYS looking towards the future! We are now working with new materials and developing already existing ones. Our prestigious project of the moment is called Motomondiale.
J.C.M.: What exactly is this about? What it the connection between a motorbike and laser sintering materials?
F. C.: Our highly specialized technology and staff, in collaboration with Franco Moro (a technical designer who boasts an impressive past alongside such drivers as Biaggi, Capirossi, Rossi and De Angelis), have decided to completely design and develop the motorbike which will race in the next 250cc Motorbike World Championship, under the name of Scuderia Fantic Motor GP. Normally, such a project would take two years, but we have managed to complete it in six months, not only because of our extremely advanced technology, but also thanks to the efficient management and hard work of the staff involved.
J.C.M.: Where can we find more information about this world, particularly on Windform materials?
F. C.: Regarding our activities, the www.crptechnology website is quite exhaustive, whereas for Windform materials, I recommend the www.windform.it website. Technological characteristics can be found in the famous international search engine for materials, www.matweb.com.