3D Printing - Manufacturing-Tooling Solution - Fiber Layup
Fiber–reinforced plastics are a group of composite materials consisting of a polymer matrix reinforced with fibers, that when combined together form a new material with physical properties exceeding those of either constituent material. These materials are used in industries, such as automotive, aerospace, sporting goods and consumer goods. The combined materials possess strength while being light.
Two distinct categories of molding processes use fibers: wet layup, where the fibers are applied to a form and resin is poured and brushed into the cloth; and dry layup, which uses prepreg (pre–impregnated) fibers with resins already absorbed before the molding process. This process involves high temperatures and pressures to harden the prepreg fibers inside the mold and achieve the desired geometry. The prepreg method provides better penetration of the resin and more uniform resin thickness than the wet layup process.
How it works
The method of fiber placement requires expensive equipment and is only suitable for the production of large-scale and highly complex parts. Increasingly popular customized parts in the composite material industry can lead to very expensive products, due to the need to create custom tooling that constantly changes. Two options for making molds for the fiberglass layup process used to be CNC machining and handcrafting. Handcrafting is a labor-intensive process requiring skilled workers, and substantial time will go into any iterations needed to adjust the mold to meet design specifications.
The Proto3000 Advantage
Producing molds with 3D printing addresses many of these challenges, offering shorter lead times, lower expense and higher accuracy. The tool is fabricated in an automated process directly from a CAD file, meaning no iterative adjustment of the mold is needed to dial in part accuracy. This frees skilled shop employees to tackle other urgent tasks. 3D printing can also be used as a bridge to tooling, making parts on very short notice while a longer–term mold is being made. Contact the Proto3000 Services Team for further information on how we can help you with this solution. If you want to speak to a LIVE PERSON - CALL 1-888-88-PROTO (77686).
The Process of Fiber Layup
- Print the mold or master directly from its CAD design on an inkjet or FDM system.
- If desired, polish the surface.
- Apply release agent so the part will be come away from the mold.
- Prepare materials by cutting fabric to fit the mold, mixing epoxy, and readying any additional components.
- Impregnate the fibers; in this stage the fibers first meet the matrix resin. It is important to make sure the fabric absorbs the resin well.
- Use pressure to eliminate air bubbles from the finished composite part. Numerous methods, including vacuum bagging, pressure bagging, or compression can achieve this.
- After the epoxy hardens, remove the part from the vacuum bag and trim excess fabric.
- Optionally, close the two halves together with glue inside the mold, then remove the strong, lightweight part from the mold.
Polyjet or FDM molds are a best fit for fiber layup when production volume is low, geometries are difficult to machine, parts are customized or constantly changing and large and intricate detail is required for a mold or core. Reduce lead time and cost, while you inert molding materials that do not inhibit curing. Decrease the core weight of your parts while creating a stable prototype.
The Technology Used for Manufacturing - Tooling Solutions
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Technology
Using FDM technology allows affordability and durability by printing concept models with production-grade thermoplastics.
FDM 3D Printers are office friendly and they produce small models in hours and large models in days. The FDM printed models can be drilled, sanded and painted according to your preference to create a perfect finishing of your prototype.
PolyJet 3D Printing Technology
As a 3D printing process, this technology produces amazingly realistic models. The printing technology builds accurate models by incorporating multiple materials into one automated part to create prototypes that look and feel like finished products. With fine details, smooth surfaces, rigid housings, soft-touch buttons, lettering, rubberlike seals and even clear components, your models can look the part at a trade show, a presentation or even during a sales pitch.