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Large-scale Continuous-Fiber Additive Manufacturing for the Maritime and Infrastructure Sectors

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CFAM (Large-scale Continuous-Fiber Additive Manufacturing for the Maritime and Infrastructure Sectors)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2019-09-01 do 2020-08-31

Yachts, bridges and skyscrapers have an element in common: they all have parts that consist of fibre-reinforced composite. This material is extremely versatile as it is strong, but at the same time very light. The production of carbon- and glass-fibre reinforced polymers is usually done via the so-called ‘open-mold process’, which often occurs in Asia due to cost considerations. Yet, for some customers this choice is not the most convenient one, especially when the parts to be produced are large and complex (large and complex molds are expensive) or when only a few units need to be manufactured, either for production or prototyping purposes (the cost of the mould is amortized over the few units produced). Additionally, manufacturing in Asia increases the lead time and complicates the supply chain.
What is currently missing on the market is a valid technical alternative that is also financially viable to run directly in Europe in order to combine the low costs of the Asian production with the low lead times (and possibly higher quality) of the European production.
Our CFAM (Continuous Fibre Additive Manufacturing) machine addresses exactly these market
needs. It is the largest (1.5 m × 4 m × 2 m) and fastest additive manufacturing machine worldwide that can produce objects directly with glass- and carbon-fibre reinforced composites.
The ‘CFAM’ project is aimed at bringing this technology to the market, therefore the project describes three main objectives:
Bring the CFAM machine to TRL9;
Realize the CFAM Experience Centre; and
Gain commercial traction within the Maritime and Infrastructure segments.

Upon the start of our project the maturity of the innovation was at TRL6: a small-scale prototype of the CFAM machine was already built and tested. Just after starting the project we were about to finish the first full scale prototype. This prototype would give new insights and improvement points to bring the technology past the prototyping phase into commercial readiness, TRL9.

Even more so, based on the CFAM technology different machines and components have launched in the second year of the project. Allowing to combine multiple processes and drastically reducing investment costs, these new products significantly lower the barrier for adoption on the targeted industry segments. These products are commercially available as well.

In the first year of the project the Experience centre was realized.
The CFAM Experience Centre is a centre to showcase the technology and to speed up the market acceptance by hosting demonstrations. This Centre shows CEADs products and also allows customers and other stakeholders to witness this novel technology in action. Demonstration projects done together with stakeholders allows to assess the technical and commercial feasibility of the technology for the specific application and significantly lowers the barrier for adoption. So far 31 demonstrations have been hosted in the Experience Centre.

Through these demonstration projects and other outreach projects commercial traction was gained not only in the infrastructure and maritime sectors but also in Automotive and Aerospace. Currently CEAD delivers solutions across all the different markets.
At the end of September 2018 the CFAM Prime prototype was ready. After the first year the CFAM Prime was ready for series production.

To make the system perform according to standard with the different materials, the machine has undergone many different optimizations cycles. These optimizations and tests are very iterative in nature, quickly making proof of concepts, which are tested on the machine. In the first year of the project we did numerous tests on the machine. These tests can be divided into: testing out the materials whether these are processable, printing samples for showcasing and printing samples to find material specific properties such as the mechanical properties.

After finalizing the design for the CFAM Prime and finalizing the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT), preparations for the documentation and consequently certification have commenced. Internal rules and regulations were applied and the proper certifications were achieved. Documentation has been finished and the IPR has been protected through an international patent and trademarked technology name.

The Experience Centre’s main purpose is for SMEs, corporates, research institutes and educational institutes to experience the CFAM technology.
The emphasis has been on these demonstration projects, which further drive the adoption of this technology for the industry sectors. The demonstration projects assess both technical and commercial feasibility and projects for amongst others; 3D printed pedestrian bridges, facade cladding elements, moulds and tools have been successfully executed which ultimately lead to the customers implementing the technology for automated production of these industry end parts.

The Experience Centre remains operational even after the project and has so far received more than 1000 stakeholders and has entered in more than 30 demonstration projects.
Leading shows like Formnext for 3D printing and JEC World were attended to disseminate the results. CEAD was a finalist of the innovation awards for the JEC World 2019 and won the 2019 AVK Innovation awards.

After the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2(COVID19) virus all shows were cancelled. This led to a focus on digital presence and has allowed us to maintain the strong trend for new lead generation even without the attendance of these physical events. The Experience Centre remained open, and while stakeholders were unable to visit the centre and take part in the demonstration projects the projects were executed regardless with very positive results.
The technology has been delivered to multiple customers all across Europe and across the different sectors. Business cases assessed during the demonstration projects have been very positive so far, leading to the conversion of these projects into turnkey solutions supplied by CEAD.

Traditional composite components like facade cladding elements and pump tracks are nowadays produced using the technology with a drastic reduction of manual labour, enabling reshoring of large composite parts.
The first pedestrian bridge was printed using thermoplastic composites and the first public bridge will be installed later this year, as an answer to the huge number of bridges that need replacing in the coming years across Europe.
Air technical components like deflector hoods and air vents are produced with the technology replacing traditional production with steel, reducing manual labour needed and the CO2 footprint of these components significantly.
Metal hatches for yachts have been replaced with thermoplastic composite alternatives, at a fraction of the cost and weight.
Even high end moulds and tools for carbon composites for the Aerospace sector have been produced with the technology and are currently used in series production by the European aerospace sector. A development in line with the need for lighter planes that can travel further using less energy.

CEAD has grown to a self sufficient company employing 16 employees and steadily growing with a broad market acceptance. The Experience Centre has become self sufficient as well, and continues its operations even after the projects end. We expect the Experience Centre to gain more traction as the demonstrations and interests in the technology grows.