Fiberneering has two 3D printers, built in-house, that can produce parts up to ½ x ½ x 1 meter. The company is currently developing a printer to make larger parts in one pass. In the meantime, it can manufacture larger products by combining parts after printing. “We are focused on making large parts in a reasonable amount of time at a low cost point,” says Bouwmeester. For the second part of its process – adding the composite component – Fiberneering handles prepreg and vacuum infusion in-house, while RTM is done by another supplier.
Fiberneering’s clients span multiple industries, from automotive to marine. The company has done development work and begun production on some parts with Donkervoort, a high-end sports car maker in The Netherlands. While Bouwmeester declined to reveal details on Fiberneering’s specific applications within the automotive sector, he shared a simple product created for the marine industry – bimini support poles for luxury yachts.
“Because the sunshade on this yacht was large, the bimini poles were getting quite big and the customer couldn’t use traditional aluminum ones,” says Bouwmeester. “They asked us to design something quite specific to fit the yacht – a particular shape and with lots of integrated cables used to tension the sunshade.” Fiberneering 3D-printed two cores, then co-cured them with carbon fiber prepreg for a set of 1.5-meter long poles. Since then, the company has also produced two larger sets of bimini poles, the longest ones close to 2 meters, for other yachts.
Bouwmeester says Fiberneering’s two-step process is much different than other additive manufacturing techniques, such as extrusion (also known as fused filament fabrication). With extrusion, a continuous thermoplastic filament is fed from a coil through a heated printer extruder head and deposited in two planes, first horizontally and then vertically, to create the part.
“Although I really like the technology, you get different types of products [with extrusion] than with FRP3D,” says Bouwmeester. “You get unidirectional fibers, which is fine for products with a single load path.” He says that Fiberneering’s two-step technology allows for multidirectional laminates.
Another difference between traditional additive manufacturing for composites and Fiberneering’s method is the fiber volume. “Because extrusion uses a fiber that’s pre-impregnated in a thermoplastic matrix, the resin content is high and the fiber content is low,” says Bouwmeester. “The properties are akin to a nylon with increased stiffness due to the fiber, which is great for some applications. But the applications we are targeting require the same properties as traditionally manufactured composites.”