One of the most startling composites industry announcements of 2016 was the report, in May, that researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, Oak Ridge, Tennessee) had tested an autoclave-capable mold fabricated via 3D printing.
As reported by CW on May 16, Dr. Ahmed Hassen, postdoctoral researcher at ORNL, and Dr. Vlastamil Kunc, polymer materials team lead at ORNL, used a Cincinnti Inc. Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine to fabricate a mold using polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) reinforced with a high loading of carbon fiber supplied by Techmer. They also combined polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) supplied by BASF, compounded by Techmer, but with a lower carbon fiber loading.
The molds were trialed in an autoclave by Boeing's St. Louis facility (St. Louis, Missouri), and showed only 0.002-0.004 inch maximum deformation after two cycles. The technology was also an ACE winner in the Material and Process Innovation category at CAMX 2016 (Sept. 26-29, Anaheim, California). The photos at left show the mold on exhibit at the show, and the carbon fiber part it produced.
CW's Carbon Fiber conference, Nov. 9-11 in Scottsdale, Arizona, will feature Hassen and Kunc, who will provide an update on their research and discuss next steps for this attractive and intriguing technology. Click here to see the full Carbon Fiber agenda, and to register.