High-performance Polymers and Composites Printing Technologies – part III: Additive Fusion Technology
By Merve Canalp
Exploring Composite AM Technologies
During “Composite Workshops 2021”, four virtual workshops with the participation of high-performance polymers and composites AM companies were held successfully during Q4 2021. The main material focus was on Composite AM Technologies including Robotic Material Extrusion (by Ai Build), Composite Based Additive Manufacturing (by Impossible Objects and Ricoh), Fiber Placement Additive Manufacturing (by 9T Labs), and Composite Thermoplastic Material Extrusion (by Roboze).
With the help of article series, we would like to introduce some of the most prominent AM companies and their technologies which took part in the Composite Workshops 2021. And in this third part, we are going to introduce 9T Labs and continuous fiber Additive Fusion Technology (AFT).
Part III: Additive Fusion Technology presented by 9T Labs
Continuous fiber reinforced composites can be used for the replacement of metal parts while offering various economical and technical benefits such as low buy to fly ratio, lightweight parts which are corrosion resistant with high shock absorption. However, conventional carbon fiber composite manufacturing methods remain tedious and expensive especially for small parts production. Therefore, Fiber Placement Additive Manufacturing, while providing design freedom of AM (DFAM), can be a convenient solution when it comes to cost effective alternatives to conventional manufacturing technologies for small parts serial production.
9T Labs: Founded in 2018, Switzerland, as ETH Zurich spin off, aim at helping industries, from medical sector to aeronautics, adapt Additive Fusion Technology (AFT) which combines additive manufacturing (Build Module) with compression molding (Fusion Module) for continuous fiber serial parts production.
Build Module help build 3D printed parts similar to material extrusion technology, FFF/FDM, utilizing high performance thermoplastic polymer filaments, e.g., polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) and polyamide (PA12), and carbon fiber reinforced tapes (dimensions: 0.1 – 0.2 mm thick, 1 – 2 mm width) as shown in the Figure 2. For serial part volumes the cost range of feedstock materials is 80€/kg to 400€/kg. Composite parts in combination of carbon fiber and PEKK (CF/PEKK) or carbon fiber and PA12 (CF/PA12) is possible to realize with up to 60% fiber volume content. High temperature/performance applications would fit better for CF/PEKK printed parts which could have high tensile strength, 2350 MPa (ASTM D3039), and melting point, 337 degrees Celsius, in comparison to CF/PA12 which has lower tensile strength, 1820 (ISO 527-5), and melting point, 178 degrees Celsius, suitable for more cost effective and/or technically less crucial parts production.
With the help of 9T Labs’ engineering assistance as well as utilizing Fibrify software to optimize the design and placement of fiber directions according to requirements of end use parts, e.g., loading conditions, customized small parts can be printed with Build Module machine which has a build volume of 350 x 270 x 250 mm. Thanks to unique solution by 9T Labs’ software and engineering, AFT technology allows parts to be printed by considering the optimum carbon fiber placement for the mechanical stability of the end use part.The machine specifications are given in the following figure for more details.
After printing the parts in Build Module, AFT process is finalized by an advanced post processing technology named as Fusion Module. The machine specifications are given in the Figure 4 for more details.
During this final step, the part geometry is consolidated with the help of a mold specifically designed for the part as shown in the Figure 5 and Figure 6.
During this workshop, business structure, internal/external capabilities and networks, material and technology maturity of 9T Labs as well as case studies from 9T Labs’ portfolio were shared with the live demonstration of Build and Fusion modules.
With the help of this virtual workshop presented by 9T labs, we had the chance to discuss about the key aspect of AFT as well as some general topics:
- After Fusion Module, high part quality (tight tolerances, low voids, good surface finish) can be achieved (Figure 7).
- With AFT, welding of multiple smaller parts and integration of inserts could be possible.
- 9T Lab’s AFT is cost-competitive for serial production (100-10,000 parts / year), not suited for low volume production cases.
In the final section of Composite Workshops 2021 article series, Roboze machines and materials along with some key takeaway notes will be shared.
 Please see the first article from here:https://amexci.com/high-performance-polymers-composites-printing-technologies-robotic-extrusion/.
 Please see the second article from here: https://amexci.com/high-performance-polymers-composites-printing-technologies-part-ii-composite-based-additive-manufacturing/.
 Material datasheet information can be found from this link: https://www.3devaluate.com/_files/ugd/cf3431_1e2ccdef9c01483bb0988c2ea9066f34.pdf.
 The pictures are from 9T Labs product specifications found in here: https://www.3devaluate.com/_files/ugd/cf3431_70be0e00678e4f46bcb5d932266383be.pdf.
For more information, please contact:
Merve Canalp, Researcher