Additive Manufacturing of Continuous Fiber Reinforced Thermoset Composite

K. Fu
University of Delaware,
United States

Keywords: 3D printing, composite, thermosetting polymer, continuous carbon fiber


Fiber reinforced polymer composites (FRPC) made with continuous carbon fibers and thermoset polymers exhibit excellent specific mechanical properties (high strength, stiffness, and toughness), thermal stability, and chemical resistance. As such, they are lightweight and energy-efficient structural materials used widely in aerospace, automotive, marine, construction, and energy applications. Additive manufacturing (AM) of lightweight and energy-efficient composites using continuous carbon fibers and thermosetting polymers offers great opportunities for advancing composite manufacturing with design flexibility, low cost, reliability and repeatability. However, the material, architectural, and technical limitations make existing AM technologies unavailable for printing structural and functional thermoset/continuous carbon fiber composite. To date there has been no AM technique available to make such composites. In this talk, Dr. Fu will talk about a new 3D printing technique, called localized in-plane thermal-assisted (LITA) 3D printing, developed at Dr. Fu’s lab. The LITA technology is by creating a controllable and dynamic processing window to enable curing of liquid thermoset polymer in continuous carbon fiber structure, realizing a feasible 3D printing of thermoset/continuous carbon fiber composite with near net shape, complex geometry, and programmable performance. LITA 3D printing technique has received CAMX Awards for Composites Excellence (ACE) in Manufacturing: Equipment and Tooling Innovation Award by American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA). LITA technology provides a new 3D printing concept and process knowledge beyond existing AM technologies to potentially enable high throughput processing and geometric complexity of printed composite, and has been demonstrated to be applicable to a wide range of fiber materials, including carbon fibers, carbon nanostructured-fibers, aramid fibers, and glass fibers, and could promisingly produce a transformative impact on the upgrade of additive manufacturing for many applications.