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Printed Ceramic Tooling Disrupting Automotive and Aerospace Composite Manufacturing

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With today’s focus on lightweighting, hollow parts made from composite materials, such as ducting, fuel tanks, mandrels and rocket shrouds, are in higher demand than ever before. Manufacturing these composite parts with hollow features, however, has historically been a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. For decades, sacrificial tooling has been needed to create the core forms for composite layups. Creating the core tooling for layups has always been a multi-step process that involves molds and other labor-intensive methods. What’s more, it hasn’t always been easy to remove the sacrificial tool after the final composite part has been completed. Today, that process often involves hot solvents, detergents, tools that deflate and, sometimes, a good old-fashioned chisel for removing tools out of the final part. However, the additive manufacturing industry has a solution to this problem that is now being used by Sikorsky and Royal Engineered Composites, among other aerospace and automotive companies. Binder jet 3D printing of sand media with a solvent that remains water soluble allows for the creation of tools that are highly resistant to thermal expansion, preserving dimensional accuracy during manufacturing, and can simply be washed out after the composite has been autoclaved. Unlike other sacrificial tooling media, 3D-printed washout tooling is also sustainable as the sand media can be reclaimed for reuse. It a fast and sustainable way to create sacrificial tooling for carbon and glass-fiber composites.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how this new material and processing approach to manufacturing composites is proving to be disruptive
  • Understand how this new technology compares with recent and current state-of-the-art conventional manufacturing methods in terms of design flexibility, time and cost
  • Rick Lucas
    Chief Technology Officer
    The ExOne Company