CW Blog

3D printed tools are in production at Dassault Falcon Jet

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:, 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 Dassault Falcon Jet’s composites engineering team located at Dassault 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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The next generation of ceramic matrix composites

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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Wait, wait, there’s more: JEC 2017

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: ), 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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Multimaterialism is back in the Audi A8

German automaker Audi has become the latest automotive OEM to get into the multimaterial business, reporting extensively on the use of carbon fiber, steel, magnesium and aluminum in the next-generation Audi A8. The multimaterial ethos is expressed most clearly in the Audi Space Frame (ASF, pictured above).

In terms of its overall dimensions, an ultra-high-strength, torsionally rigid rear panel made of CFRP is the largest component in the occupant cell of the new Audi A8, and Audi says it contributes 33% to the torsional rigidity of the total vehicle. To optimally absorb longitudinal and transverse loads as well as shearing force, the part uses six to 19 layers of carbon fiber tapes 50 mm/2.0 inches wide. Audi says it made the part using an automated, direct dry fiber placement process specially developed for this purpose. After the dry fiber is placed, the entire stack is preformed and then molded via high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM). Carbon fibers were supplied by Zoltek (St. Louis, MO, US).

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