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Fraunhofer IMWS and Brightlands Materials Center to optimize composite thermoplastics for 3D printing

The German-Dutch collaboration will seek to optimize fiber-reinforced thermoplastics for additive manufacturing applications

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The Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS and the Brightlands Materials Center in the Netherlands are teaming up to advance the 3D printing of thermoplastic composites. According to a recent press release, the two parties plan to optimize fiber-reinforced thermoplastics for additive manufacturing applications on an industrial scale.

In the manufacturing world, polymer composites are gaining increasing attention in materials, largely for their beneficial properties. Composites, which can include polymers embedded with carbon fibers, glass fibers and others, allow for the production of parts that nearly match the strength of metal but are much more lightweight.

In this specific initiative, the Fraunhofer Institute will work with Brightlands Materials Center— an initiative of the Province of Limburg and TNO—to leverage the benefits of fiber-reinforced thermoplastics and combine them with the flexibility and freedom of design that comes with additive manufacturing.

The first phase of the project will see the partners investigating the additive manufacturing process to better understand how composites and AM can be combined in the best way. For instance, the teams will look at how fibers are embedded in the polymer matrix and how their positioning and orientation affect the mechanical properties of the printed part.

Brightlands Materials Fraunhofer
Fraunhofer IMWS

The second phase will then see the joint researchers develop materials and AM technologies that are geared to the production of high-resistance, customized parts or spare parts for the automotive, aerospace and construction industries.

“The success story of 3D printing so far shows the great potential of this technology,” said Dr. Ralf Schlimper, who is leading the “Assessment of Composite Systems” group at the Fraunhofer IMWS. “However, many parameters can still be significantly improved, such as the speed of production and the mechanical stability of components.

“The competences of Brightlands Materials Center with respect to polymeric material properties and processing, especially with regard to different methods of 3D printing, are an excellent addition to our profile. I am sure that together we can achieve great progress on these issues.”

Interestingly, the German-Dutch collaboration comes from a long shared history between the Saxony-Anhalt state and the province of Limburg, which was born from a shared focus on the chemical and plastics industry. Both regions also say they are committed to developing renewable resources and technologies.

“We are excited to start this partnership with Fraunhofer IMWS, which has an excellent track record in the field of thermoplastic composites, including non-destructive diagnostics of product quality,” added Marnix can Gurp, Managing Director of Brightlands Materials Center. “This collaboration gives us access to great skills and facilities to support our own ambitions in the field of continuous fiber reinforced 3D printing.”

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