Free Form Fibers (Saratoga Springs, NY, US) reports that it has successfully produced multi-material ceramic fibers using its patented laser chemical vapor deposition (LCVD) manufacturing process. This capability was demonstrated by co-depositing boron with silicon carbide through precise control of the precursor gas chemistry, and evaluated using high magnification scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with advanced chemistry analysis.
Using its platform additive manufacturing technology, Free Form Fibers expects to produce fibers with unique combinations of high-performance elemental and ceramic compositions. To date Free Form Fibers has produced 25-micron-diameter silicon carbide, boron carbide, boron, and tungsten carbide fibers in tape formats at widths of a few millimeters; the company is ramping up its production capabilities and expects to manufacture material in wider formats before the end of the year. Free Form Fibers is also developing a spooling system to allow for continuous long fiber production and expects to be offering 150m tape spools by early 2016.
“The big picture takeaway from these results is that we’ve essentially opened up a vast array of multi-component phase diagrams to the portfolio of materials that Free Form Fibers can produce,” says Dr. Shay Harrison, senior materials scientist at the company. “We’ll be able to put together combinations of materials that are just not possible with other manufacturing approaches. The next step for Free Form Fibers is to understand the impact to the resulting material properties, such as strength and fracture toughness, of these fiber products.”
Harrison says the mixing of different materials at the micro- and nano-scale is the most intriguing technical achievement. Free Form Fibers has submitted a patent application to cover this technical advancement and is exploring potential applications, including advanced armor using silicon carbide and boron carbide co-materials.
Free Form Fibers’ ultra-pure "laser printed" fibers, says Harrison, are the next generation in high-performance fibers in ceramic matrix composites (CMC), metal matrix composites and other advanced materials applications.