Oct.11, 2013

Composites specialist Nathan Armstrong, formerly founder and president of Motive Industries, is leading a partnership developing a 3D printing technology that will produce composite parts with continuous fiber reinforcement, CompositesWorld reported.

Current additive manufacturing systems could only produce composite parts reinforced with discontinuous fibers. This limitation locked 3D printing out of high-performance markets like aerospace, auto racing, robotics and medical applications.

According to Armstrong, the technology on which he is working employs a proprietary process that uses carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic filament that is "placed optimally and continuously" in a 6-axis printer in "free space" that allows the machine to produce, ultimately, a continuous fiber structure. The system also allows for more complex parts to be built with multiple parts that are subsequently consolidated together. Further, additional heads will allow in-process stitching and weaving of fibers.

Though still under development, Armstrong believes this 3D printing technology could change substantially how complex structural composite parts are manufactured. Users could simply fed their 3D design into "feedback loop" software Armstrong has developed, and then the software iteratively calculates part optimization vs. fiber placement to make the part printable on a 3D printer. "It skips the entire traditional engineering design process and produces highly optimised parts with zero material waste," he says. "I believe this is the future of manufacturing structural composite parts."

Armstrong estimates this combined design/3D printing system will come to market in around three to five years. Armstrong is currently seeking software and financial support for this project. Armstrong can be reached at nathan@armstrong.me.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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