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Optimization of Fused Granular Fabrication Process Parameters of Conducting PEKK for Large Aerospace Structures

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The aerospace industry is consistently challenged to reduce weight, cost, and complexity of components while meeting increasingly challenging performance requirements. Additive manufacturing (AM) combined with advanced composite polymers provide an excellent solution for rapid development, lightweighting and low-cost, reduced lead time compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Enabled by the increasing maturity of the fused granular deposition (FGF) process, this work describes the development and optimization of an FGF process to produce large-scale (6 ft), airtight aerospace structures made with electrically conducting PEKK nanocomposite. Focuses include optimizing for Z strength — the tensile strength in the direction perpendicular to the print direction — systematically through key process parameters such as temperature, layer height and layer time. Additional emphasis was put on process control to achieve and maintain repeatability of the production process. As a result, the unique nanocomposite blend of PEKK allows for full compatibility with aerospace regulations, a 20% increase in tensile strength compared to base PEKK, while maintaining elongation, and up to 60% in Z strength to that of XY. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand common regulations to aerospace materials.
  • Optimize a fused granular fabrication process for manufacturing purposes.
  • Describe capabilities of large scale AM high-performance polymer manufacturing in terms of typical sizes and mechanical properties.