The aerospace industry has been using 3D printed carbon fiber parts since around 1985 under the acronym AFP or Automated Fiber Placement. While this places it as a relatively “new” technology, it has matured quite well with 1,000s of engineers working on end effector processes for 35 years. It is a unique, expensive, fun, and massive corner of the 3D printing world.
My favorite quirk about AFP is how, anisotropy and isotropy aside, part design considerations for the engineer are more like subtractive manufacturing than additive. Basically, an engineer doesn’t have anything close to total geometric freedom with the AFP 3D printing vs. common 3D printing. This is counter-intuitive because don’t the concepts of other 3D printing methods carry over?
The major design consideration that applies to both AFP and subtractive manufacturing is how the end effectors (AFP heads and end mills or cutters) are going to fit in and around the part geometry. AFP processing requires a tool to lay the fiber on, and in almost every case, that tool has contours.
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