“The potential to quickly print high-strength composite parts and fixtures for the warfighter could be a tremendous asset both in the field and for accelerating weapon system development,” said Dr. Jeffery Baur, leader of the Composite Performance Research Team.
International allies, including India, also see the promise. They have formed joint projects to use the composite printing process to make complex core structures which, when combined with top and bottom face sheets, create light weight sandwich structures with properties tailored to the physical forces that need to be carried.
Traditional sandwich structures are used on aircraft skins with the same core geometries over the entire area. Additively printing sandwich structures would enable structures that can withstand heavier forces where needed and to remain lighter weight where they are not.
The manufacturing agility of additively printed cores also allows for the easy insertion of other materials like metal fittings and electrical components which can ease assembly and create multifunctional structures with embedded sensing, actuation, computation, or electrical power for next-generation, multifunctional unmanned aerial vehicles.
The results of the team’s effort to develop additive printed composites will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Experimental Mechanics dedicated to the mechanics of additively manufactured materials.