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Connova produces its first composite component from a 3D printed mold

Leveraging LFAM capabilities from Caracol and autoclave technology

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Swiss composite specialist Connova Group has teamed up with Caracol and Formbar (CH) to investigate the possibilities of a 3D printed mold in a joint R&D project. For this purpose, the Connova Group has provided the 3D data of the nose structure from an ongoing drone project. Caracol then constructed the mold from this data and printed it on the HERON AM platform – an innovative, modular 3D printing system for large-scale applications that uses polymer and composite pellets. The innovation lies precisely in this choice of materials, which allows this form to be used in an autoclave at a temperature of 130°C and a pressure of 6 bar.

Before the mold could be used by the Connova Group, the corresponding mold surface had to be mechanically processed by the Formbar, which has large and precise CNC milling machines available for this purpose. Only then could the composite specialists at the Connova Group produce the component using the classic prepreg/autoclave process. Considering it is the very first component that the company has produced from a 3D printed mold, the results are impressive.

Connova produces its first composite component from a 3D printed mold, leveraging LFAM capabilities from Caracol and autoclave technology

The part is on display at the Caracol booth at JEC World 2024 in Paris.

More and more traditional composite manufacturing companies are finding composite 3D printed molds to be a must-have solution to address several challenges in terms of streamlining and accelerating a process that remains very labor-intensive. Perhaps it will never be possible to achieve fully automated continuous fiber composite manufacturing for every type of part, but 3D printing is going to play key role of the future of these materials (which are going to make up a lot of what we’ll make in the future).

The LFAM process fits in with multiple layup applications and one of the biggest challenges it experienced was ensuring the mold material would withstand autoclave temperature without excessive defomation during the autoclave process. This project from the experts at Connova shows that the 3D printed molds are now ready to tackle even these remaining challenges.



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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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