CW Blog

Engineers from +LAB, the 3D printing laboratory of the Politecnico di Milano university in Italy, are looking to redefine composite manufacturing with utilizing 3D printing technology. The research project on continuous fiber composite materials and thermosetting resin is called Atropos, which uses a robotic arm, to 3D-print composites. Atropos is a new six-axis robotic arm that was developed in collaboration with KUKA, for the robotic arm, and Owens Corning, for the glass fiber. The technology was recently recognized as a winner of the JEC Innovation Award in the category of 3D printing.  

According to a news release from +Lab, inspired by nature and silkworms, and controlled by the artifact intelligence of special algorithms, Atropos fluently moves in space depositing a continuous fiber of thermosetting composite material, instantly cured as it comes out of his head.

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Ford Motor Co. (Dunton, UK) has published a report describing a research and development effort to manufacture a carbon fiber composite rear suspension knuckle for a C-segment vehicle.

The project was undertaken by Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre (Essex, UK), Warwick Manufacturing Group (University of Warwick, UK), Gestamp (Newton Aycliffe, UK) and GRM Consulting (Leamington Spa, UK), and was designed to assess the feasibility of a composite knuckle replacing a steel predecessor.

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The trend of employing polymeric additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing for composite tooling is growing. As we reported back in our July 2015 issue (here’s the link: http://www.compositesworld.com/articles/3d-printing-moves-into-tooling-components), many in the composites industry want to reduce tooling lead times to keep pace with composite part design cycles, and to keep up with accelerating manufacturing and processing speeds, across the spectrum of markets but especially in aerospace and automotive. And AM is a big enabler, since tools can be made in a matter of days or hours, and — with improving materials and build designs — stand up to autoclave cycles, in many cases. 

Stratasys Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN, US), a manufacturer of direct digital manufacturing and rapid prototyping systems using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology for producing parts and tools, is working with many customers on both part and AM tooling concepts and materials, among them Dassault Falcon Jet (South Hackensack, NJ, US and Little Rock, AR, US). Tim Schniepp, director of Composite Tooling Solutions at Stratasys with extensive aerospace experience, recently introduced me to Bastien Carel and Gregory Hilbert of Falcon Jet’s composites engineering team located at Falcon Jet’s completion center in Little Rock, where the company’s business jets undergo final assembly, including wiring, painting and installation of interiors. Fifty to 70 aircraft undergo completion per year at the Little Rock facility.

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Cover Photo: As it finishes construction on the last two facilities (fiber and prepreg) in its vertically-integrated CMC supply chain, GE Aviation is already developing next-generation CMC components, such as turbine blades. SOURCE: GE Reports.

Let’s review why the use of ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) is growing in applications like military and commercial jet engines and industrial turbines:

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There’s never enough time to see everything at the JEC World event, and this year the problem was even worse. In my initial JEC report (here’s the link: http://www.compositesworld.com/blog/post/another-opportunity-to-meet-and-learn-in-paris ), I ran out of time and couldn’t describe everyone I did get a chance to see and speak to. Here’s more information on new products and companies, from Paris…

HP Composites (Campolungo, Italy), part of the Everspeed Group (Paris, France), displayed a carbon-composite-intensive Formula E electric-powered race car from Spark Racing Technology at its stand. Founded in 2010, HP Composites has grown from a supplier of carbon parts for Formula1 and other racing organizations to a well-rounded manufacturer involved in production automotive, aerospace, marine, industrial and luxury goods. Its technologies range from autoclave to compression molding to resin transfer molding, and competencies span the entire gamut from engineering and prototyping through tooling to full industrialization. The group recently opened a US office (Denver, NC, US).

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