Expert Interview: Anisoprint CEO Fedor Antonov on Why Composite 3D Printing Is One of the Biggest Trends in AM
30 July 2020
Composite 3D printing, despite being a young technology, is rapidly maturing to unlock new opportunities in the production of robust, yet lightweight, parts.
One company pushing the limits of composite 3D printing is Anisoprint, the Russian start-up, which has developed a material extrusion process called Composite Fiber Coextrusion (CFC).
CFC technology enables the reinforcement of plastic with continuous composite fibres directly during the printing process, making it possible to produce highly durable, strong parts.
We caught up with Fedor Antonov, CEO of Anisoprint, to learn more about the benefits of CFC technology, its current applications and Fedor’s view on the future of the composite 3D printing market.
Can you tell me a bit about Anisoprint?
Anisoprint is a company founded 5 years ago by experts in composite materials design and optimisation with a common vision of the future of composites.
Our mission is to develop a globally-demanded innovative production technology for manufacturing of lightweight structures that will change the way aeroplanes, cars, spacecraft will look like. Lightweighting means less use of resources, less fuel, lower emissions – and ultimately more sustainable future.
Anisoprint has developed Composite Fiber Co-extrusion technology (CFC). Could you explain what the technology is and the value it brings to the market?
The main goal that we had in mind when developing CFC technology was to bring the most flexible composite manufacturing technology to the market.
Co-extrusion approach provides a lot of freedom: freedom in choosing the matrix material, freedom in varying the volume fraction of reinforcement and allowing complex reinforcement paths. At the same time pre-impregnated (composite) continuous fibers provide strength and stiffness.
Freedom in materials choice allows us to reinforce different types of polymers with high-strength fibers to manufacture composites with a wide range of properties, such as thermal or chemical resistance, impact, wear, fatigue resistance, friction properties, etc.
The ability to vary the fiber volume fraction enables us to print composite lattice structures that are much more weight-efficient than composite laminates or sandwiches. With CFC any complex shape with almost any material is possible.
Which industries and applications would be best suited for your technology?
Composites are the best materials for lightweight applications. Lightweight properties are highly sought after by aerospace, high-performance automotive, sports and medical industries.
Whenever something needs to fly or move fast, or people need to carry it, lightweighting is essential. This is where we see the future of composite AM.
3D printing brings more flexibility to composites manufacturing, taking composite materials to rapid prototyping, allowing multiple design iterations made quickly and production of lightweight tooling and jigs, that can significantly accelerate production lead time.
Using lightweight materials for robotic assembly and welding jigs can significantly increase the speed of the motion and, hence, productivity. Lightweight toolings are much easier to handle in operation, saving time and making production safer.
Can you share a success story or two of using your technology?
We’re proud to see that anisoprinting users are successful with the technology achieving their manufacturing goals and sometimes even making real discoveries. Our client, Brightlands Materials Center, has developed self-sensing composite parts which can be used for monitoring critical structures in aerospace, construction and healthcare.
Usually, self-sensing material is created with the traditional composite manufacturing techniques that are the complex several-stages processes involving the specialist equipment.
Brightlands Materials Center is combining the self-sensing of continuous fiber with the fabrication of the composites by anisoprinting to make it more effective.
The results were discovered by monitoring deformation in a simple bending beam and in a scale model of a pedestrian composite bridge. Pushing the bridge, the deformation of the structure as a function of the applied load is monitored.
Some other exciting use cases involve the production of tools and fixtures for mass production. Anisoprinting helped get a more durable and cheaper tool for sheet metal forming reducing the costs at least twice.
In the case of a fixture for the production line, our clients have increased lifespan of the clevis by anisoprinting it PETG plastic, reinforced with continuous fibers. The material is resistant to peroxide hydrogen which is used for washing at this production line.
All these use cases are possible due to the flexibility of our technology: you can lay up fibers by arbitrary trajectories; create composite lattice structures which give maximum strength with minimum material; use any plastic as a matrix getting the composites with any property you need.
Anisoprint has recently introduced the large continuous fibre composite 3D printer. What was the impetus behind developing this system?
We always had a vision of ideal composite manufacturing technology – anisoprinting – that will enable autonomous, single-stage, toolless manufacturing of optimal, large scale complex shape composite structures.
Every new product we develop is a step towards this anisoprinter.
The PROM IS 500 is our first industrial machine, meaning that it meets all the industrial standards for reliability, tolerance, safety by using high-quality industrial component base.
It is a high-temperature machine capable of printing and reinforcing high-performance polymers, such as PEEK, PEKK, PEI and others. It has a large build volume (600x420x300 mm) and high productivity. So it’s designed purely for production, 24×7 runs in a factory environment.
What is your view on the current state of composite 3D printing, and how is the technology developing?
We are in this sphere for more than 6 years now, and we can clearly see how composite 3D printing has evolved over the years. Undoubtedly, it’s the most prominent new trend in 3D printing today, while just 3 years ago it was something new and exotic and only a few experts ever heard of it.
Today we see market studies recognising composites 3D printing as a separate technology group that exhibits one of the highest growth rates. The number of players on the market is also increasing rapidly year on year.
The 21st century will be the century of composites, and 3D printing is the technology to make it happen.
What does the year ahead hold for Anisoprint?
We will have a lot of new product announcements soon, both in the desktop and industrial segments.
The PROM IS 500 will be delivered to the first customers in early 2021, and the official sales launch will take place at the end of this year.
There are a bunch of new products in the desktop segment arriving this year that we will keep secret before the official release. I can only tell that it will include new materials, software and service offerings.
To learn more about Anisoprint, visit: anisoprint.com