The potential for applications within NASA are endless. Obvious applications include pressure vessels (including large cryotanks), composite crew modules, rocket motor casings, shrouds, satellite components (including zero CTE laminates), flywheel energy storage, and many others. The ability to 3D print structures has caught the public's imagination and is currently in use on the international space station. The ability to 3D print advanced thermoplastic composite structures opens up entirely new applications and opportunities. Additionally, the technology can be extended to other material systems including metal matrix composites (MMC) and ceramic matrix composites (CMC). Additively manufactured tools can be automatically fiber placed with continuous fiber reinforced metals or ceramics. Automated Dynamics and Fabrisonics have collaborated on aluminum matrix composites AFP. This has applications for higher temperature applications and selective reinforcement aluminum structures. Similarly, extremely high temperatures can be achieved with AFP ceramic precursors on 3D printed tools. However, in this case, post processes are required to paralyze the ceramic precursor. Applications include rocket motor components, heat shields, and thermal protection systems for hypersonic vehicles.
Thermoplastic AFP technology has made great strides in reducing cycle times as compared to thermosets, due to their ability to be consolidated Out of Autoclave (OOA). However, traditional hot gas torches do have some limitations with respect to speed; these limitations serve as a barrier to entry for a variety of applications and markets where higher volumes necessitate faster throughput. The laser consolidation technology in development at Automated Dynamics has thus far shown promise of at least three times the processing speed of traditional hot gas torch solutions. The addition of additively manufactured tooling will provide the capability to additively manufacture true 3D composite structures. Full commercialization of this technology will allow us to effectively engage many markets where higher throughput needs are necessary. Examples include several applications in markets such as: Automotive, Electronics, Commercial Aviation, Energy, Medical, Chemical Processing, and General Industrial. Automated Dynamics currently manufactures a host of products in these industries such as plain bearings for pumps used in oil and gas exploration, tail rotor drive shafts for military helicopters, and cannulation tubes for medical applications. All of these products stand to realize significant manufacturing benefits from the improvements enabled by Laser AFP.