Rapid growth in additive manufacturing offers opportunities for composites industry
Additive manufacturing with fiber composites will grow to a market volume of about ten billion US dollars by 2028. This is the forecast from an analysis by SmarTech Publishing. According to this, half of the turnover is generated from the sale of hardware. In addition, the experts anticipate that 3D printers with powder-bed fusion will be the primary type of system used to manufacture composite parts in additive manufacturing (AM). In addition, revenues from composite AM parts production (including prototypes, tools and end parts) are expected to reach $4 billion by the end of the forecast period. The end parts are expected to have the highest sales potential.
Essentially, two commercial AM composite technologies are currently being used: material extrusion and powder bed fusion. In addition, some experiments are taking place in the field of laminated AM processes. Carbon fibers are used as the main materials for the composite materials. In addition, according to the study, carbon can also be used in other forms known as allotropes in manufacturing (and in AM). These include graphene (an atom thick layer of carbon atoms) and CNTs (carbon nanotubes). Glass fibres are another important material in additive production. Glass fibre reinforced thermoplastics are increasingly seen as an opportunity, especially for powder bed fusion processes.
3D printing industry expects sales of 13.8 billion US dollars in 2019
According to a report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the global 3D printing industry is expected to generate $13.8 billion in revenue in 2019. By 2022, the additive manufacturing market is expected to grow to $22.7 billion. The annual growth rate over this period is expected to be 19.1 percent. Hardware, materials, services and software were considered for the analysis. 3D printers and materials account for around two thirds of sales.
The study conducted by VDI / VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH in 2016 entitled "Additive manufacturing methods - development status, market prospects for industrial use and ICT-specific challenges in research and development" had already come to the conclusion that global sales of AF goods had increased almost eightfold between 2003 and 2014 and that a further exponential increase could be expected in the coming years. The experts put the share of German companies in global sales of AF goods for 2010 at 15 to 20 %, which corresponds to around USD 260 million.
New materials and materials remain a decisive driver
The market for additive manufacturing also offers good prospects for the composites industry. New materials remain a decisive driver for the future establishment of additive manufacturing. According to the experts, composite materials occupy a special position. This refers primarily to fiber-reinforced powders or filaments. However, these have so far only been offered on the market in isolated cases or have not yet been developed to market maturity.
Integration of additive production for composite materials into existing production processes
COMPOSITES EUROPE, which will take place in Stuttgart from 10 to 12 September 2019, will also show the latest developments in the field of fibre-reinforced composites for additive manufacturing. Here, Stratasys GmbH will use application examples to show how time and costs can be saved by integrating additive manufacturing for composite materials into existing production processes. "We will also present the latest material developments in composite materials - such as the lightweight and robust Nylon12CF material," announces Michael Hoelz, General Manager Germany/Austria/Switzerland.
He explains the interaction between additive manufacturing and composites as follows: "To some extent, Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) and Automated Tape Laying (ATL) can be seen as additive manufacturing technologies for composite materials, since the tapes are applied layer by layer automatically. However, these approaches are often still dependent on tools and limited in their freedom of design. The use of additive manufacturing gives users much greater freedom in terms of geometry, as a soluble support material is used."
This is one of the reasons why Stratasys sees great developments on the market. "An example of this is the development of our Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator, which through multi-axis extrusion will be the key to truly high-quality composite parts in the future," says Hoelz. We've already launched a fiber-reinforced nylon and I think we'll see more materials in the near future." For him, COMPOSITES EUROPE is therefore the perfect platform for interacting with companies and potential customers and showing them alternatives to traditional production materials and processes.
Eight times faster high-speed 3D printer for high-performance plastics
Fraunhofer IWU presents a high-speed 3D printer for high-performance plastics at COMPOSITES EUROPE. With SEAM (Screw Extrusion Additive Manufacturing), the experts have developed a system and process that is eight times faster than conventional 3D printing. This is a big step because additive production of large-volume plastic components has been very time-consuming up to now. The high-speed technology only takes 18 minutes to produce a 30-centimeter-high plastic component.
Tool manufacturers as well as the automotive and aviation industries benefit from the innovative 3D printer, which achieves an eightfold increase in process speed. Up to seven kilograms of plastic per hour are pressed through the hot nozzle with a diameter of one millimeter. The comparable 3D printing processes FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) or FLM (Fused Filament Modeling) usually achieve only 50 grams of plastic per hour. The special feature: instead of expensive FLM filament, SEAM processes free-flowing, low-priced standard plastic granulate into resilient, fiber-reinforced components several meters in size. In this way, material costs can be reduced by a factor of 200.
"3D Fibre Printer" created the conditions to use composite materials as printing material.
Additive manufacturing processes (AF) are of great importance for composites processing. As early as 2016, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA succeeded in developing the "3D Fibre Printer" to create the prerequisites for using composite materials as printing materials and thus enabling the use of high-strength lightweight materials in additive manufacturing. Thanks to an innovative nozzle, continuous fibers can be integrated directly into the plastic strand during printing, enabling composites to be printed for the first time.
The component gains additional stability because continuous fibers are used instead of fiber sections in the composite material. Compared to the plastics used today in additive production, this means that a tenfold increase in strength can be achieved. The range of materials suitable for 3D printing can be significantly expanded with this technology. All thermoplastic materials that can be melted with the nozzle and the combination with numerous fibers, including glass, aramid or carbon, are possible, as is the processing of bio-based plastics and natural fibers.
New process combines the advantages of injection moulding and 3D printing
In addition, IPA researchers have developed a new process that combines the advantages of injection molding and 3D printing. To this end, they have combined the additive process with a casting process. In so-called "additive free-form casting", the shell of the component is first produced from the water-soluble plastic polyvinyl acetate (PVA) using FLM pressure (fused layer modeling) and then automatically filled with a precisely dosed quantity of two-component resin (PUR or epoxy resin) that dries quickly. This increases the stability of the component, saves time and makes it possible to print new materials.
After drying, the component can be extended to any height using the same principle. As soon as the process is completed and the component has hardened, the mould is removed in a water bath. The result is a 3D-printed workpiece with properties similar to injection moulding. The IPA researchers have installed a special dosing unit for 2K materials in the 3D printer in order to pour the filling material into the shell. This makes it possible to carry out the entire process "in one piece" - i.e. the printing of the sleeve and the filling. The printing process does not have to be interrupted and can be controlled completely digitized as with conventional 3D printing.
Further advantages of the process are that two-component resins can be processed and heat-resistant thermosets can be used as construction material. In addition, the component is much faster to assemble and much more stable, because the material completely fills the mold and thus no porous areas or air pockets are formed. According to the scientists, the new method is suitable for a wide variety of applications and industries, including electrically insulating components such as sockets or foams and cushions, which are required for safety elements.