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Published on March 9th, 2017 | by Geetika Bhasin

Researchers from LLNL print high-performance carbon fiber parts

Carbon fiber composites are the ultimate material to create lightweight yet resilient parts. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has successfully 3D printed these carbon composites for aerospace grade parts.

The research, published yesterday in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, highlights the work of LLNL researchers who advanced micro-extrusion 3D printing techniques for carbon fiber composites. It is difficult to produce complex shapes using this material, which offers incredible physical properties. Additive manufacturing simplified the problem, and now researchers from LLNL say that they have devised advanced solutions.

The research at LLNL led by Jim Lewicki has used a 3D printing process which is a modified type of Direct Ink Writing (DIW), called Robocasting. Using this new patented chemistry, the researchers are curing the material in seconds rather than hours. LLNL’s computing technology was used to predict the flow of carbon fiber filaments.

The team head said that they used simulation techniques to tackle clogging which was possible with the aid of computational models. The LLNL researchers used these simulation techniques allowing thousands of carbon fibers flowing through the 3D printer’s ink nozzle, to determine how best to align the fibers.

The research team has developed a numerical code that enables them to find the optimal length and performance, though research is ongoing to achieve better alignment of the fibers. The new 3D printing and simulation process developed by the LLNL researchers will allow widespread usage of carbon fiber composites to develop complex parts. As per the LLNL team, they have achieved better control of the mesostructure of 3D printed parts. Using carbon fiber for 3D printing, which is a conductive material, would allow for the creation of high-performance airplane wings, parts, and insulating wearables. 3D printing could also allow better alignment of the carbon fibers which would enable it to maintain high-performance using lesser 2/3 amount of carbon fibers.

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