On demand Additive Manufacturing: 4 Industry trends to watch in 2021

In our future we should be very clever about how we use our limited resources. Our manufacturing industry should be more flexible in making what we need, and do that without creating waste. They also need to make different products that are less polluting and are easier to reuse and recycle. These are no small challenges.

Strong recyclable 3D printed thermoplastic compositesTrend 1: Small-scale and local production

The ongoing digitization and automation of the manufacturing industry is going to help us do this. Continuous fiber additive manufacturing is a relatively new technology that allows a digital and automated manufacturing line, and offers some additional benefits to the industry as well because it also allows small-scale and local production.

Trend 2: Strong recyclable 3D printed thermoplastic composites

Brightlands Materials Center is at the forefront of developing this relatively new additive manufacturing technology, which has a special feature to manufacture products that are mechanically very strong. The print head of these continuous fiber printers can deposit a strong fiber embedded in the molten polymer being put down. In fact, the printer manufactures composite products consisting of thermoplastic polymers reinforced with continuous fibers. Composites are very strong, yet lightweight materials, and are being used for example in airplanes, windmills, lightweight electric cars, race bikes, and yachts. However, currently used thermoset composites are relatively hard to recycle, and typically end of life solutions consist of milling them down into powder and using them as filler, for example in concrete. Thermoplastic composites are much easier to recycle as they can be melted and reused.

Strong recyclable 3D printed thermoplastic compositesTrend 3: Shape in freedom and automatization

One other advantage that additive manufacturing brings to the composites industry is the shape freedom and automatization. Current composite technologies still require a relatively large amount of manual work preventing use for a broader range of applications. Additive manufacturing and other technologies like automated tape laying or fiber placement create new opportunities for the composites industry.

Trend 4: New composite 3D print technologies

Brightlands Materials Center recently installed a Wizard 480+ from APS Technologies, a next-generation, continuous fiber additive manufacturing machine, to further develop the technology. At the same time, an innovative continuous fiber impregnation line was set up in collaboration with Xplore Instruments to investigate material development for continuous fiber additive manufacturing. As a good meal starts with good quality ingredients, the same holds for additive manufacturing.

Let’s innovate together!