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Continuous Composites selected by NASA’s SBIR Program

To additively manufacture low CTE open isogrid composite structures for space applications

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Continuous Composites, an advanced composite 3D printing technology company, has been selected by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to additively manufacture low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) open isogrid composite structures for space applications, using its patented Continuous Fiber 3D Printing (CF3D) technology.

Continuous Composites selected by NASA's SBIR Program. To additively manufacture low CTE open isogrid composite structures for space.
Isogrids on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner pressure vessel

In space, the temperature of objects orbiting Earth change drastically when on the dark side of the earth compared to the light side. Therefore, precision objects such as satellites and optical benches require low to zero CTE to prevent warping, or distortion, from the expansion and contraction due to the temperature changes.

Continuous Composites selected by NASA's SBIR Program. To additively manufacture low CTE open isogrid composite structures for space.
Open isogrid structure

Continuous Composites says this NASA award will demonstrate CF3D’s advanced robotic steering of individual, continuous carbon fiber tows to print and test a flat 1.6 x 3.3 feet open isogrid rib structure – with a low CTE. CF3D-printed isogrid structures can reportedly be deposited onto a support surface of many different shapes (including flat, cylindrical, spherical, conical, etc). The resulting part can be optimized for the desired strength and stiffness depending on launch and space loads.

Continuous Composites was selected for its CF3D’s use of continuous fiber reinforcement, snap curing photopolymers, and advanced robotics that enables the manufacturing of composite structures which are impractical to produce with traditional fabrication methods – more efficiently, and at reduced costs. One such structure is this open isogrid rib structure, the company notes, which has applications in many industries, including space and aerospace.

“Given my background in composite design for space applications, I’m excited to demonstrate our unique fiber steering capabilities for this NASA project. This printed isogrid will have little to zero CTE which is the goal for these types of space structures,” said John Brendel, application engineer and technical POC on this NASA SBIR. “This contract builds upon the work we have been doing in the DOD [Department of Defense] and commercial aerospace sector, and we’re excited to introduce our capabilities to the space industry.”

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Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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