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Composite 3D Printing 101

Composite 3D printing is a relatively new trend in additive manufacturing. It is an innovative technology that allows creating 3D printed parts with enhanced parameters of strength, stiffness, and durability due to fiber component added to plastics.

There are two ways to add fiber to plastics: fill with chopped fiber or reinforce with continuous strands,  here we describe continuous fiber reinforcement specifically, as chopped fibre does not contribute to the properties equally and does not add to the quality and strength as much.

As part of the overview (101 stands for novice course), we will study the benefits of composites compared to both plastics and metals, look inside the existing composite 3D printing technologies, investigate the nowadays market and dwell on Anisoprinting.

Continuous carbon fiber reinforcement enhances mechanical properties of printed parts unlocking a wide range of applications in aerospace, automotive, aviation, and medical industries, and we will make a special case on it.

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Automated Fiber Placement

AFP, automated fiber placement or initially “advanced fiber placement”, is one of the modern and popular technologies of composites manufacturing. In essence, it is an additive manufacturing process fully adapted to high productivity: it uses carbon fiber tapes instead of filament to increase the coverage, works on open areas, and creates complex surfaces like fuselages, oil pipes, or spaceship parts.

The key feature of this technology is speed and automation. In contrast with hand lay-up, automated fiber placement allows significantly increased deposition rates.

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Real 3D printing: how to produce non-planar continuous fiber reinforced composites

Most 3D printing processes are actually 2.5D. What does it mean? The conventional process of 3D printing is laying material on top of each other on the parallel plane, resulting in a three-dimensional object.

In traditional 3D printers, moving parts are most often either the printing table, or the printing head, or both of them, such as in the Composer — continuous fiber 3D printer. Even though the table and the print head move along the x, y, z axes, the layers are still stacking in the parallel plane, and each subsequent layer is parallel to the previous one.