Italian startup Moi Composites is now providing 3D printing services using the innovative Continuous Fiber Manufacturing (CFM) process developed by +LAB from the Politecnico di Milano. The award winning continuous fiber technique—it won the 2017 JEC Innovation Award and was a finalist for the 2017 James Dyson Award—was born through +LAB’s Atropos project and has formed the basis for Moi Composites.
Officially founded in February 2018, Moi Composites is described as “the natural evolution of [LAB+’s] academic results. The startup will act as a co-design and production service for small series, customized and high performance objects. Using CFM, a process patented in 2015 by the team from Politecnico di Milano, Moi Composites says it is capable of 3D printing high performance thermoset composite parts.
As a production service, Moi Composites emphasizes that it will not just work with clients to produce prototype parts, but will also produce employable, end-use products. This capability is thanks to the CFM process which combines the performance of thermosetting composite materials with the flexibility of additive manufacturing.
CFM offers the ability to digitize composite parts by algorithm and integrates smart optimization algorithms which control the position and orientation of fibers to obtain the highest performance while using the least amount of material. This last feature was realized in collaboration with Autodesk, which helped CFM’s developers to optimized the placement of fibers along principal stress lines of a given part. In following with this collaboration, Moi Composites also integrates Autodesk Netfabb Ultimate into its workflow for the preparation of 3D models.
By relying on industrial robots in the printing process, CFM is also highly scalable and can be customized for different markets, including automotive, aerospace, biomedical, construction and more. As Moi writes on its website, “Industrial robots exist in various sizes and payloads, and they can be combined with 3, or more, axis gantry machines to reach unimaginable spans and movements freedom.”
The company said in a release: “The choice of focusing the process on thermosetting matrices with curing times shorter than one second, allows to deposit continuous fibers at high speeds, thereby rapidly generating products characterized by significantly higher working temperatures as compared to conventional thermoplastic matrices.”
Moi Composites currently offers a range of thermoset composite materials including FGV (vinylester resin and glass fibers), FGE (epoxy resin and glass fibers), KFE (epoxy resin and kevlar fibers), CFE (epoxy resin and carbon fibers) and more. The composite materials offer a range of beneficial properties, including light weight, high strength, chemical resistance, heat resistance, high impact strength etc.
In realizing its composite fiber printing service, Moi has collaborated with companies such as composites firm Owens Corning, KUKA, Autodesk, COMAU and ComoNeXT Innovation Hub. Moi recently showcased its capability by partnering with Autodesk to design and 3D print a BMX bike frame. The frame, which was printed using a continuous glass fiber composite material and utilized a 6-axis robotic arm, was 40% lighter than its steel counterpart (weighing only 1.8 kg vs 3 kg).
The BMX frame was constructed using a 6-axis robotic arm and took advantage of CFM’s ability to control the positioning of the fibers. More specifically, fibers in the back of the frame were not deposited in a parallel to plane manner, which helped to achieve superior structural and anisotropic properties.
“The bike has been designed using a voxel-based optimization algorithm that allows to generate the desired building solution from given forces and constraints,” added Moi. “This software is able to understand the theoretical distribution of stresses, distinguishing tension forces and compression forces, and design according to the most structurally efficient way.”
“Thanks to dedicated algorithms it is also possible to reduce the interruptions of the fiber, optimizing the toolpath to better distribute the load. For example, it is possible to enclose holes without interrupting the fibers therefore making them to work in tension.”
The 3D printed bike frame, which was printed in three separate parts and was assembled using topologically optimized 3D printed metal connectors, was first unveiled at Formnext 2017 and has been touring other exhibitions with Autodesk since.
As it establishes itself as a provider of CFM, Moi is continually looking ahead and aiming to improve its technology. Even now, though, the new company says it has delivered high quality composite parts in good time, thanks to its autonomous robotic printing system. Presently, Moi is capable of producing parts as large as 0.8 x 1 x 1.2 m in size and plans to build even larger robotic printing cells.
The Italy-based company is also exploring the application of carbon and aramid fibers for the CFM process as well as improving the overall quality of the process in terms of speed and control.