Fiber-reinforced composites (FRCs) are man-made materials that consist of a complicated combination of fiber and resin. The reinforcing fiber increases the matrix’s strength and improves the composites’ quality while reducing their weight. This has been demonstrated by the additive manufacturing process of direct ink write (DIW). However, a means of accomplishing integrated, multi-materials prints has not been developed. LLNL researchers have been able to combine multiple processes and materials chemistries to enable hybrid, fiber-reinforced additively manufactured materials to be printed, which are composed of chemically contiguous short fiber regions, continuous filament regions, and architected microstructures.
LLNL’s method of 3D printing fiber-reinforced composites has two enabling features:
- Ability to deposit a range of materials with different compositions with a common cure chemistry/process on a common motion stage.
- Ability to transition from one class of material (e.g., rigid thermoset) to elastomer without bond line or abrupt transitions by means of compositional blending of resins with common chemical functionalities.
Various processes are described using a common motion control stage (3 or more axes), 2 or more parallel print heads, coaxial print heads, or a multi-input valved head arrangement that can deliver two or more distinct feedstocks to a build within a single, sequential, or parallel process.
- Improved performance with lower manufacturing costs
- Produces hierarchical, multi-responsive, and multi-functional materials in a single stage process
- Structural composites
- Aerospace and defense applications
- Thermal protection systems
Current stage of technology development: TRL 3 (analytical and experimental critical function and/or characteristic proof of concept)
LLNL has filed for patent protection on this invention and has a comprehensive portfolio of 3D printing FRCs.
- U.S. Patent No. 9,862,140 Additive Manufacturing of Short and Mixed Fibre-Reinforced Polymer issued 1/9/2018 (https://image-ppubs.uspto.gov/dirsearch-public/print/downloadPdf/9862140)
- U.S. Patent No. 9,944,016 High Performance, Rapid Thermal/UV Curing Epoxy Resin for Additive Manufacturing of Short and Continuous Carbon Fiber Epoxy Composites issued 4/17/2018 (https://image-ppubs.uspto.gov/dirsearch-public/print/downloadPdf/9944016)
- U.S. Patent No. 10,994,472 High Performance, Rapid Thermal/UV Curing Epoxy Resin for Additive Manufacturing of Short and Continuous Carbon Fiber Epoxy Composites issued 5/4/2021 (https://image-ppubs.uspto.gov/dirsearch-public/print/downloadPdf/10994472)
- U.S. Patent Application No. 2017/0015060 Additive Manufacturing Continuous Filament Carbon Fiber Epoxy Composites published 1/19/2017 (https://image-ppubs.uspto.gov/dirsearch-public/print/downloadPdf/20170015060)
- U.S. Patent No. 11,084,223 Optimal Toolpath Generation System and Method for Additively Manufactured Composite Materials issued 8/10/2021 (https://image-ppubs.uspto.gov/dirsearch-public/print/downloadPdf/11084223)