Every year, JEC Composites hosts the JEC Innovation Awards to highlight and celebrate some of the most boundary-pushing technologies and innovations within the composites segment. The competition has been held by the company for 15 years and has awarded 177 companies and 433 partners for their composite projects. This year, three 3D printing composite technologies have been named as finalists in the JEC Innovation Awards.
The three 3D printing projects are part of a larger group of 30 finalists, selected by an international jury of experts from over 100 applications. The finalists are competing across ten categories. Excitingly, this is the first year that 3D printing has been featured as an independent category within the contest.
“The JEC Innovation Awards program is emblematic and recognizes pioneers in composite innovation,” said Franck Glowacz, Innovation Content Leader at JEC Group. “3D printing plays a new role in our industry. The combination of lightweight, resistant materials that allow great design freedom, with a technology that allows complex shapes, is of interest to manufacturers. Many manufacturers have started using it to print automotive parts, aircraft parts, or building walls. Due to the very high level of the nominees, the JEC Innovation Awards ceremony should be very rich!”
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the three finalists in the 3D printing composites category.
Netherlands-based CEAD has been nominated as a finalist for its CFAM Prime additive manufacturing system capable of printing large-scale fiber-reinforced thermoplastic structures. The CFAM Prime (which stands for Continuous Fibre Additive Manufacturing) also boasts a rapid throughput (averaging 15 kg/hr) and is capable of running for 24 hours without an operator.
The 3D printer is equipped with a versatile extruder with a max temperature of 400°C, making it compatible with a broad range of thermoplastics, including PETG, PP, PPS, ABS, PC, PB and PEEK. Importantly, the 3D printer can also process thermoplastics with a certain percentage of short reinforcing fibers.
CEAD actually produces its own composite filaments which consist of thermoplastics impregnated with continuous fibers. In the print process, the print head combines the melted thermoplastics with the fibers to print the composite material.
Other CFAM Prime features which helped CEAD into the finals of the JEC Innovation Awards include a closed-loop temperature control system, a dedicated cooling system and a fully-enclosed build environment. Overall, the CFAM Prime offers composite additive manufacturing capabilities along with shorter lead times, increased automation and lower costs.
The CFAM Prime platform was developed by CEAD in cooperation with the European Commission, Poly Products, Royal Roos and Siemens Nederland N.V.
Optimized 3D printed internal beam structure
Czech company Compo Tech Plus spol s r.o. has also been named a finalist for its optimized 3D printed internal beam structure technology designed for automation and dynamic machine structures.
Compo Tech Plus’ technology was developed as a solution to the inherent problems of composite machine tool and automation frame structures. Traditionally, the structures are thin-walled filament-wound carbon laminates with axially placed graphite fibers which are built for maximum bending stiffness and high natural frequency. However, these structures suffer from wall instability under shear and buckling conditions. Existing solutions to this issue have typically either added substantial weight to the structures or have required intensive manual labor and processing times, as well as high costs.
Using a topology optimization approach, however, Compo Tech Plus has demonstrated a novel 3D printed solution. The approach enables the optimal distribution and cross-sections of a lattice-like internal beam structure, which can then be automatically exported for additive manufacturing.
Currently, the process involves 3D printing layers of ABS, though the ultimate goal is to 3D print the internal structure from continuous carbon fibers saturated with a thermoplastic epoxy resin.
The internal structure designed by the Czech company in collaboration with the Czech Technical University in Prague, offers an improved mechanical response to operational loads. As it elaborates: “This internal structure provides a rigid connection with a steel mandrel that is removed after curing. This is important as the torsion and bending forces during the fiber laying process can affect the accuracy of the section tolerance and run out in the final precision-pressing stage. This can then reduce machining and cost.”
The innovative technique offers a number of benefits, including improved dynamic performance of machine structures, weight reductions, improved wall stability, more automation and increased cost competitiveness.
The final 3D printing finalist in this year’s competition is Continuous Fibre 3D Printing (CF3D) by American company Continuous Composites. The technology is described as a “moldless out-of-autoclave” process, which reduces cost and lead times for composite parts.
The patented CF3D technology uses high-performance dry continuous fibers (as opposed to more costly prereg fibers) which are embedded in a rapid-curing thermoset material inside the print head. The print head, for its part, is attached to an industrial robot controlled by the company’s CF3D software. As the composite material is extruded from the print head, a high-intensity energy source is directed at the wet material, cutting the fibers and solidifying a composite part.
A crucial advantage of the CF3D process is that because it uses an energy source to cure the composite as it is printed, it does not require supports or molds. This feature allows for flexible design iterations, faster lead times and high complexity. The system is also capable of printing fibers out of the XY plane into the Z direction, drastically opening up design capabilities. Further, the CF3D software offers load path optimization, ensuring that fibers are printed in the direction of principle stresses.
The process is capable of printing using a range of fibers, including structural fibers like carbon and Kevlar, as well as functional fibers like fiber optics and metallic wire.
JEC Innovation Awards 2019
The winners of the JEC Innovation Awards 2019 will be named at a ceremony on March 13, 2019 at the JEC World 2019 exhibition in Paris.