In the recent years, several industries like defence, automotive, sports and aerospace have benefitted from carbon fibre. Thanks to its lightweight, stiff material and high resistance to temperature, it has stood out in making composite material for the above-mentioned industries.
There are two ways of fabricating carbon fibre, the first way is to wind the filaments around a mandrel physically, the second way is to weave the fibres together in shape of a wicker basket. This results in the finished products looking either cylindrical or flat in shape. Usually, due to concerns over performance, fabricators overcompensate and make the parts heavier, subsequently making them costlier.
Advancement has been there in the industry as researchers have found ways to print complex structures with 3D printing through ‘Direct Ink Writing’ i.e. DIW. The team lead by Lewicki developed a patented chemical that cures the printing material as soon as it is printed instead of several hours. To develop this technology, the team used high-performance computers to get the accurate models of fibre filaments.
Researchers are more enabled than ever with the rapid 3D printing with carbon fibres giving them the control over the structure’s mesostructure. As the material is highly conductive, it allows thermal channelling through the entire structure. The final product can be utilised in the aerospace industry to make components of the air crafts and satellites which are insulated from one side for space flights.
The development of custom carbon fibre filled inks added with the thermoset material is another advancement in technology. This breakthrough in technology will enable advanced applications in the aerospace domain, defense and transportation. The printing process is better than before with epoxy and cyanate ester, particularly designed for the printing process to provide enhanced thermal and mechanical performance.
Instead of random alignment, direct ink writing process allows the carbon fibre to print in the alignment directed in the mesostructure. This helps researchers outperform same material printed with other methods and inks. This has helped them reduce wastage as two-thirds less carbon fibre is used yielding the same results as any other material does.