3D printers to produce precisely fitting plastic parts for lightweight construction
3D printers are becoming ever more important: they can be used to quickly produce the desired products. Researchers at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern are also working with this system: in order to optimize the printing result for plastics, they examine the conditions required during printing. In this context, the composition of the material also plays a role. With their fibre-reinforced plastic, they rely on fibres that are completely built into the plastic like a string. This is interesting, for example, for the lightweight construction of vehicles. They will present their work at the Hannover Messe from 1 to 5 April at the Rhineland-Palatinate research stand (Hall 2, Stand B40).
The market for 3D printers is growing. According to a study by the US market research institute SmarTech Publishing, the market grew by 18 percent in 2018. This technology allows, for example, the production of more filigree components. Fibre-reinforced plastics are often the preferred choice for making such printed products light, stable and solid.
Kaiserslautern engineers also deal with this material and technology. “We are working on manufacturing plastic products with 3D printing in such a way that they are optimal for their intended use,” says Miaozi Huang, PhD student at the Institute for Composite Engineering under Professor Dr Alois Schlarb within the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering.
The special feature: so-called continuous fibres are used for their fibre-reinforced plastics. These are built into the plastic as a whole – similar to a string. In other processes, such fibres are not added in one piece, but as individual microparticles. The plastics, in which continuous fibres are used, have a clear advantage, as the doctoral student explains: “As a result, the finished product is much stiffer. It is more rigid.”
Huang and his team are working to improve the printing process. “We are investigating how the plastic’s structures must be designed so that the product can support higher loads.” The engineers also investigate how the printer parameters have to be set in order to achieve an optimal result. These include, for example, temperature, layer height or printing speed. The structure and alignment of the individual plastic layers are also important in this context. In addition, the scientists are experimenting with different plastics, some of which they have developed themselves.
Moreover, 3D printing technology offers researchers various production options. “With this technology, we are able to produce extremely thin layers,” says Huang. They are also able to strengthen their products only in the desired areas. Therefore, material can be saved in other areas.
This is particularly interesting for lightweight construction: for example, material could be saved on car bodies and the drives of vehicles or the levers of bicycles. Only in areas where the components are exposed to high loads, such as pressure, can they be reinforced, following nature’s example. The researchers will present their work and their 3D printer at the Hannover Messe.
Dipl.-Ing. Miaozi Huang
Phone: +49 631 205-5545
Klaus Dosch, Department of Technology and Innovation, is organizing the presentation of the researchers of the TU Kaiserslautern at the fair. He is the contact partner for companies and, among other things, establishes contacts to science. Contact: Klaus Dosch, Email: dosch[at]rti.uni-kl.de, Phone (also during the fair): +49(0)631 205-3001