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Ricoh 3D launches powder-based 3D composite

3D printing specialist has introduced carbon fibre composites through a partnership with Impossible Objects.

30th March 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Telford, United Kingdom

Transport/​Aerospace, Medical/Hygiene

Ricoh 3D, based in Telford, UK, is one of the first additive manufacturing (AM) companies to make 3D printed carbon fibre PEEK and carbon fibre PA12 materials commercially available in Europe for functional prototypes and small batch production.

The unique printing process leverages high-speed 2D graphics technology to create a high performance, reinforced composite part.

This results in extremely cost-effective parts with impressive strength-to-weight ratios and a performance similar to that of metals. Compared to traditional composite manufacturing, the composite based additive manufacturing (CBAM) process developed by Impossible Objects, of Northbrook, Illinois creates much stronger parts with very few geometric restrictions at significantly lower prices than have been possible before. This is especially good news for aerospace and drone manufacturers, since fine features and flat parts were previously impossible with additive technologies due to the short, chopped fibre formation and lamination between layers, causing parts to fall apart under force.

With powder-based 3D composites, continuous carbon fibre is contained in long fibre printing sheets which allows full homogenous coverage of the fibres – making point features and feathered edges possible. As the excess fibres support the unprinted areas, issues with shrinkage, curling or deformation of parts are eliminated.

“Composites are set to be an area of huge growth in additive manufacturing in the coming years, so we are proud to be working with Impossible Objects to be at the forefront of the European movement,” said Mark Dickin, additive manufacturing and moulding engineering manager at Ricoh 3D. “Carbon Fibre composites are industry-leading when producing lightweight yet strong parts.

“These properties make the materials ideal for tooling and end-use applications in a range of industries, including medical, aerospace, automotive, sport and industrial – creating anything from propellers to gear components, golf clubs to prosthetics.

“It was very important to us that this was a sustainable offering. All powder is recycled by extracting the waste material off the sheet, ensuring nothing is wasted. We are working closely with the team at Impossible Objects on future material developments and our engineers look forward to demonstrating how these new materials can change the game across a range of industries.”

As a combination of two or more dissimilar materials – typically a core polymer and a reinforcing material that are used together in order to combine their best properties – composites are usually extremely strong as a result, but traditional composite manufacturing is very labour, resource and capital intensive.

3D printing has allowed production to be automated with minimal manual input, streamlining the process and making it far more cost effective. Ricoh 3D have shared a series of sample parts on their website which demonstrate the cost savings possible with powder-based 3D composite.

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