CompositesWorld

AUG 2018

CompositesWorld

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TRENDS AUGUST 2018 14 CompositesWorld In the field of additive manufacturing technology, a limiting factor in the printing of fiber-reinforced plastic compo- nents has been the technical inability of currently available commercial 3D printing equipment to orient reinforcement fibers in more than two of the three component dimen- sions — x and y, but not z — and that equipment's limitation, both in the software and hardware realm, to building parts by stacking thin, flat printed "slices" derived from the part's CAD design. This results, of course, in a part with a signifi- cant difference in the mechanical properties that can be achieved in the x and y axes vs. the z axis. Arevo (Santa Clara, CA, US) — notably, a commercial 3D printer, not a machine manufacturer — recently has been in the forefront of efforts to develop closed-loop robotic control for 3D printing that not only enables placement of fiber in the z-direction but also along 3D curves. Arevo also is in the vanguard of efforts to 3D print components with continuous, as opposed to discontinuous (typically very short), fiber reinforcements. Arevo's new CEO, Jim Miller, an early Amazon employee and eight-year Google veteran, most recently as its VP of worldwide operations, says, "I was excited by Arevo's approach to 3D printing of composites and see a huge opportunity to change how the world designs and fabri- cates complicated structures across myriad applications." Miller explains that Arevo's new manufacturing cells use a Arevo industrializes production of continuous fiber 3D-printed thermoplastic parts standard industrial robot, a rotating build platform and a laser for heating. "We call the process direct energy deposi- tion (DED)," he says. Inside its laser-safe cell, the robot has a printhead end-effector with proprietary thermal manage- ment equipment, customized electronics and vision systems that enable in-situ inspection. "The process is mostly hands- off," Miller points out, claiming, "These new cells produce more than a hundred-fold increase in production speed." Arevo's chief technology officer Wiener Mondesir adds, "The laser provides unlimited energy. We can control that and go faster in order to achieve industrial production rates." Miller argues that machine speed and material laydown rates are only part of the value proposition: "We are build- ing complex structural composites at one-fourth the cost of traditional composites. We are pursuing economically viable fabrication of large-scale thermoplastic composite parts." He notes Arevo's approach is unconventional, but points out

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