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Additive manufacturing industry got interested in fiber reinforced composites

Additive manufacturing industry got interested in fiber reinforced composites

Additive manufacturing industry seems to stand on the verge of a boom in fiber-reinforced composite 3D printing. Start-ups and well-established companies are vying to find their niches and differentiate themselves from peers. End users namely manufacturers may find it challenging to sift through the vast variety of equipment and alike technologies which have flooded the market.

Market researcher Lux Research analyzed the additive market players according to their business activity and technology landscape to assess the market capacity.

One interesting finding of the study is that while incumbents, which include listed companies, are the ones with the track records that have earned the trust of end users, it is often the startups that can innovate faster to capture customer demand.

It is worth highlighting three startups that have carved out niches and established leadership positions in the field of continuous fiber-reinforced 3D printing, according to Lux Research. Although there is an entire ecosystem of fiber-reinforced composite 3D printing companies and printable materials, only Continuous Composites, Markforged, and Arevo have demonstrated technologies that incorporate continuous fiber into each layer of a printed part.

Dayton Horvath, the researcher at Lux Research noted in his blog that this aspect makes these companies the startup technology leaders driving widespread adoption of automated chopped and continuous fiber-reinforced part production without large-scale capital expenditure. All three companies were founded in 2013 and have numerous patent applications filed, with all three having at least one U.S. patent granted.

Continuous Composites uses fast UV light-curing thermosets reinforced with any combination of continuous fibers including fiberglass, carbon fiber, Kevlar fiber, copper wire, or fiber optic strands on a five-axis gantry system.

Markforged uses a nylon or chopped carbon fiber-reinforced nylon that can be reinforced with fiberglass, carbon fiber, or Kevlar fiber on a three-axis gantry system.

Arevo uses high-performance engineering thermoplastics such as polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) reinforced with chopped carbon fiber and/or continuous carbon fiber using a six-axis robotic arm. Last year the start-up raised $ 7 million from investors led by Khosla Ventures.

Other newcomers of note are Adaptive3D, which is said to be very well positioned with a strong material portfolio for sterolithography 3D printing, and Oxford Performance Materials, which has a solid position in selective laser sintering (SLS) of PEKK and other advanced engineering plastic for customized implants for bone replacement.

Additional players with interesting market positions include Apium Additive Technologies, which offers solutions for printing with fused filament made of structural plastics and Italy’s Roboze, which has developed a beltless, gear-driven FFF 3D printer for use with PEEK, PEI, carbon-filled polyamide (PA), and various styrenic resins, among others.

A year ago, SAMPE board member, Eric Murphy, referred to additive printing as one of the reasons to modify the composite materials production process. Conclusions made by Lux Research confirm this quote.

About Olga Yurchenko

Olga Yurchenko
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