Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Orbital Composites

Fast manufacturing to decarbonise drones, aeroplanes, and other vehicles

Mobility & Transport

A new, zero-waste manufacturing process is speeding up production of large volume precision parts

Spotted: Many applications in the aerospace, mobility, and energy industries involve the use of composites due to their lighter weight, strength, and durability. However, composites are very expensive to produce, presenting a barrier to wider adoption. Now, a new manufacturing technique pioneered by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Orbital Composites, is making composites much cheaper and faster to produce.

The new method is called additive manufacturing compression moulding (AMCM). It prints short-fibre-filled polymer and continuous fibre directly onto a mould with very precise orientation. The printed material is then turned into an accurate finished piece using compression moulding.

Orbital, which specialises in additive manufacturing for the aerospace and mobility sectors, has collaborated with ORNL since 2020 in building the robotic system and incorporating continuous fibre printing into the AMCM process. The organisations have now licensed the technology and are working on commercialising the process. In one US-Air-Force-funded project, Orbital used AMCM to manufacture propeller blades for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Vipin Kumar, research and development (R&D) staff scientist at ORNL, described the advantages of the AMCM process, saying, “AMCM combines the fiber control of additive manufacturing with the low porosity of compression molding. This process will enable a high-volume production of next-generation composites that are needed as the automotive industry continues to produce energy efficient vehicles made from lightweight and durable materials.”  

It was not that long ago that additive manufacturing was a curiosity – today it is a vital part of the drive for sustainability in any number of sectors. Springwise has also spotted innovations like 3D-printed clay cups that replace single-use plastics and printed cultured meat.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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