9T Labs AG, experts in digital, automated and cost-competitive serial production of continuous fiber components, entered into an official collaboration with Purdue University to research and test the potential of manufacturing structural aerospace composite applications at scale with 9T Labs’ Additive Fusion Technology (AFT).
This partnership with Purdue, one of the leading engineering universities in the United States, is a first-of-its-kind collaboration for 9T Labs in the US. The unique hybrid solution, which combines high-resolution additive manufacturing with the speed of bulk molding compound (BMC) overmolding to automate manufacturing, offers a cost-competitive option versus the traditional production of aluminum aerospace parts. 9T Labs’ innovative and unique approach to continuous fiber 3D printed preform parts has already shown tremendous promise in the transportation, medical and robotics industries, among others.
Purdue University’s world-class Composite Manufacturing and Simulation Center (CMSC) in West Lafayette, Ind., provides the necessary tools and resources to analyze, simulate and test the performance of composites. 9T Labs and Purdue worked collaboratively to develop the application workflow to efficiently engineer and manufacture high-performance parts using BMC chips and continuous fiber 3D printed preforms. Initial testing shows that customized continuous fiber hybrid parts can be digitally designed, 3D printed and co-molded with BMC materials, ensuring performance at only a fraction of the usual cost of continuous fiber materials.
“Traditional composite manufacturing is expensive, wasteful and limited in its geometric freedom, particularly for small-sized applications,” said Yannick Willemin, head of marketing and business development, 9T Labs. “We are defining a new composite manufacturing standard that allows us to produce structural composite parts as easily as metal parts. Our new partnership with Purdue University is a meaningful step toward making this technology more broadly available and accessible within the next 12-18 months.”
The origins of this partnership trace back to when 9T Labs’ CEO and Co-founder, Martin Eichenhofer learned of John L. Bray distinguished professor of Engineering at Purdue University, Dr. R. Byron Pipes’, work on composites during his PhD studies. “When I heard about the new Composite Manufacturing and Simulation Center led by Dr. Byron Pipes, I reached out to him to discuss what we were doing at 9T Labs,” stated Eichenhofer. “His curiosity was piqued and we discovered an opportunity to work together on advanced thermoplastic composites. It is an honor to work with such a distinguished person and such a great team in the composites field.”
Dr. Pipes commented, “We’ve chosen to collaborate with 9T Labs because we believe that their development of AFT and their novel hybrid approach is the future of the composite manufacturing industry.”
Beyond the practical applications and potential that the AFT hybrid solution brings to multiple important industries, there are strong economic and sustainability benefits to using this technology. The combination of the zero-waste approach, the possibility to recycle thermoplastics, and the positive impact on part performance being at least 50 percent lighter than the metal benchmarks make AFT a very attractive standard of manufacturing.
Dr. Eduardo Barocio, assistant director for additive manufacturing at Purdue also commented “This technology we are developing with 9T labs for molding BMC material systems with a relatively small fraction of continuous fiber printed preforms offers significant potential to enhance the strength performance of molded components without compromising manufacturing rates”
“9T Labs is at the forefront of a completely new field of composite manufacturing that has real-world implications for structural and processing simulation, material compositions and characterization, experimental testing, and application engineering,” said Eichenhofer. “This new partnership with Purdue is an additional step toward building a consortium of partners from academia and industry to penetrate the market and accelerate the adoption of AFT and composite materials for a broad application field.”
Visitors to the 9T Labs’ booth at CAMX will learn more about the company’s innovative technology and recent collaborations and meet 9T Labs’ newly appointed President for North America, Konstantine Fetfatsidis, and Application Engineer Jordan Kalman. At their booth, 9T Labs will be fabricating a part live using their patented, cutting-edge Red Series AFT platform, a fully integrated 3D composites manufacturing software and hardware solution. The company will also showcase a range of manufactured parts that further highlight the technologies’ abilities to employ the most advanced materials, software and hardware at scale, including an aerospace bracket and a motorbike rear suspension rocker arm.