Carbon Fiber: Challenges and potentials
For the first time, extremely strong and at the same time very light-weight components can be printed using a combination of CFF and FFF 3D printing. New types of high-precision 3D printing systems in combination with real continuous carbon fiber open up new dimensions.
Components made of carbon composites have long been successfully used in racing and aerospace applications due to their high strength and low weight.
Complex designs and low production runs are the best prerequisites for additive manufacturing. So why is 3D printing with continuous carbon fibres only a marginal phenomenon in the entire field of additive manufacturing to date?
Quite simply because it has not been possible to date to combine components using carbon fiber in combination with other materials in a 3D printing process to form a useful component in the appropriate quality.
Thanks to the development of high-precision 3D systems by a handful of manufacturers in the USA and Europe, it is now possible to produce the first components. However, the well-known disadvantages of the FFF process - the lower strength in the z-axis due to the layer structure - are still present in the conventional construction of components using continuous fibers. Actually only a "2.5D print"!
The next step in the process chain would be "real" 3D printing. Here, the layers are not only laid in the XY plane, but also in the Z axis.
Soon the final step will follow: Laying the endless fibers in space with a suitable 5-axis machine or even a 6-axis robot.
But the way engineers think must also change. With the possibilities of additive manufacturing of combined CFF and FFF pressure, the limits of the potential of a component are determined by the creativity of the developers.