3D Composite Printing: Why Not Just Print the Parts?

3D Composite Printing: Why Not Just Print the Parts?

-

English
2 Pages
Read
Download
Downloading requires you to have access to the YouScribe library
Learn all about the services we offer

Description

https://www.rockwestcomposites.com/ - Composites World Magazine ran a great piece a couple of years ago introducing the concept of 3D printed composite tooling. The article, written by contributor Sara Black, focused primarily on how this new method of toolmaking benefits the aerospace industry. But over the last couple of years, we have seen it expanded well beyond aerospace.

Subjects

Informations

Published by
Published 08 May 2018
Reads 1
Language English
Report a problem
3D Composite Printing: Why Not Just Print the Parts? Composites World Magazineran a great piece a coupleof years ago introducing the concept of 3D printed composite tooling. The article, written by contributor Sara Black, focused primarily on how this new method of toolmaking benefits the aerospace industry. But over the last couple of years, we have seen it expanded well beyond aerospace.
To the untrained eye, 3D printing would seem to be the easiest and most cost-effective way to fabricate all sorts of composite parts. This leads to an inevitable question: why not just print the parts instead of printing tools for fabricating them? Answering the question requires a deeper understanding of what's going on here.
Creating Tools for Composites
When we talk about tools forcomposites fabrication, we are talking about the molds fabricators use in their layups. Tools made ofcomposite materialsare typically made ofcarbon fiberor fiberglass. Metal tools, which are prevalent in aerospace fabrication, are made of steel, aluminum, and nickel alloys.
Both kinds of tools have the same ultimate purpose: to act as molds for composite layups. Both have their limitations as well. Composite tools, while costing less to produce than their metal counterparts, do not hold up to the same volume of autoclave cycles. Metal tools can withstand thousands of runs. Composite tools wear out after a few hundred.
The two limitations of metal tools are cost and time. Because of the labor-intensive nature of creating metal tools, they cost an awful lot. That labor also takes time. It can take months to produce the largest metal tools used in aerospace. Composite tools can be made in days, and sometimes even hours.
When you look at the limitations of both kinds of tools, you begin to wonder whether there is a solution that lies somewhere in the middle ground. That solution is 3D printed composite tooling.
Precision Tools On-Demand Our industry has discovered that 3D printed composite tooling meets the needs of fabricators while overcoming the limitations of both metal and composite tools. A good 3D printer can produce a composite tool in a fraction of the time it takes to produce a metal tool. It may also cost significantly less. This leads us back to the question of why we just don't print parts. The answer to that is based in both cost and time. Beginning with cost, 3D printing may cost less than fabricating tools out of metals, but it is still more expensive than traditional composite layups. Cost is already a factor in composite adoption; 3D printing of parts straight up would only exacerbate the problem.
The other thing to consider is time. Depending on the tool, manual layups may be faster than 3D printing. And in fact, if you use a 3D printer to produce half-a-dozen identical tools, you could then produce many more completed layups over a 24-hour period than would be possible with 3D printing.
3D printing technology has absolutely come a long way in the last decade, so far that companies like ours are investing in 3D printed composite tooling. But the technology is not yet ready to become the default mode of fabricating large volumes of parts. In composites fabrication that is still best left to manual layups using precision made tools.Rock West Compositesis actively using the printing technology to develop 3D printed assembly fixtures, which allows us to offer our customers greatly improved schedules and lower tooling cost.
If you would like to know more about our composite tooling services, please do not hesitate to contact us. Rock West Composites is here to help you make the most of your composite fabricating regardless of the industry you're involved in. From aerospace to sporting goods, composite tools are the bread-and-butter of fabrication.