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The first material of choice for 3d printing was plastic, due to the fact that it could be melted easily and was malleable. More advanced 3d printers were able to use metals, such as titanium, thanks to laser based additive manufacturing technology. Now, according to Design News, Arevo Labs has developed a 3d printing technology that can make things out of carbon composites, including carbon fibers and carbon nanotubes, in a polymer. This has implications for aerospace 3d printing, not to mention quite a number of other industries.
The advantages of using carbon composites for aerospace 3d printing applications include its low weight, high strength, and greater tolerance to temperature extremes and high impact. The marriage between this material and the emerging technology of 3d printing will further revolutionize aircraft and spacecraft design.
There are a number of advantages to using 3d printing to create parts made of carbon composites. The carbon fiber’s orientation can be more precisely controlled than with more traditional manufacturing methods. Indeed, since the additive manufacturing process is performed layer by layer, the orientation for each layer can be changed at will.
Arevo Labs is also developing software for 3d printers that were allow the manufacturer to control the properties of the carbon composites being used. These include mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties.
Existing printers will have to be modified to handle carbon composite materials. This would involve a new printer head that can handle the higher temperatures that are necessary in using carbon composites in additive manufacturing and the software to manipulate the properties of the material.