Additive Manufacturing: Hybrid Components from a 3D Printer?
In lightweight construction there is a trend towards multi-material systems and hybrid components. Now, researchers at TU Dresden are searching for a way to manufacture these items using 3D printing.21 Nov 2017
3D printing is the start of a revolution in the manufacturing industry. Traditionally, parts are produced by removing or reshaping materials. With 3D printing, parts are instead created layer by layer from either liquid or solid matter. This offers huge economic and technical potential to the manufacturer. In contrast to conventional manufacturing methods, 3D printing saves storage and transportation costs, as well as avoiding overproduction.
The Challenge of Joining Metal and Plastic Components
Fiber-reinforced composites offer a variety of possibilities, especially when it comes to lightweight construction. Merging the lightweight nature of these materials with new production techniques allows for the creation of resilient products. The research consortium MM3D, which comprises TU Dresden and eight businesses from the Saxony region, aims to combine additive manufacturing with fiber-reinforced structures and metalworking. The main advantage of hybrid components is that they constitute complementary material properties, which can be adjusted to respective requirements.
3D Printing Holds the Key
The MM3D consortium now wants to develop the methods, tools and technologies for new printing processes in which components made of different materials can be created. For example, a hybrid structure comprising both fiber-reinforced composites and metal could be produced. At present, there are no manufacturing technologies that can be used to produce hybrid components in a generative manner. 3D printing, however, has the potential to change this.
Conventional 3D polymer printing methods can only produce components with limited mechanical properties, meaning that usual practical tests and exposure to direct load are not possible. Because of this, manufacturers are not able to make cost-efficient prototypes with the potential for mass production. The technologies and tools currently being researched should help remedy these issues in the future.
What Are the Advantages of Hybrid Components?
Combining hybrid components with additive manufacturing also offers benefits in terms of sustainability. Lightweight construction and multi-material design could certainly be implemented in circumstances where reduced weight and reduced energy consumption are important requirements. Producing these components using additive manufacturing could lead to products that are twice as energy- and resource- efficient.
The results of MM3D's research will be shared with other companies within a type of networking platform known as a 'shared factory', where it can then be used. This also facilitates collaboration.
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