Cevola believes that Livrea Yacht’s 3-D printing technology will become available for many shipyards within the next few years, but he thinks boat builders will use it primarily for high-end, custom yachts, much as Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari are using 3-D printed parts for their higher end cars.
Startup 3DFortify has attracted attention with its unique method of fine-tuning the properties of composite products it builds using additive manufacturing. Josh Martin, president and co-founder, notes that injection molders have been reinforcing their composite tools with carbon and glass fibers for years, but 3-D printed tools have not usually included that additional fiber strengthening. Now, using its custom-made 3-D printers, 3DFortify introduces magnetized carbon fiber technology to composite tools.
“Magnetizing the fibers gives us the ability to control their alignment in real time during the additive manufacturing process,” says Martin. As a result, 3DFortify can print very complicated, high-resolution shapes that can be individually fine-tuned to create desired mechanical and thermal properties in different parts of the tool. “We are able to provide highly detailed and also very robust parts. In a lot of other processes, you can get high strength but you usually sacrifice resolution,” adds Martin.
3DFortify’s process dramatically reduces the time required to produce composite parts. One consumer products customer has dozens of items that require short runs of around 1,000 parts. The typical manufacturing process for a conventional tool could take four to six weeks. 3DFortify can make a similar tool in about four to six hours, saving the customer both time and money.
3DFortify uses a light-based stereolithographic 3-D printing process. “It’s been proven to be one of the most scalable 3-D printing methods,” says Martin. To date the company has been able to print tools for injection molding everything from ABS to polycarbonate, and it continues to look for ways to print composite products with tougher and stronger resins that can handle high temperatures. While 3DFortify is now limited to printing tools that are 3 x 4 x 12 inches (in the x, y and z range respectively), the company is moving toward scaling up to print up 12 inches in each direction.
3DFortify is currently concentrating its efforts in the injection molding, aerospace and automotive industries, but Martin says the process will be valuable in the biomedical industry and several other markets that require high-strength, customizable composites.