Composite materials are at the forefront of space age systems, including launch vehicles and deep space observation telescopes. They are primarily known for their strength and durability imparted to objects; however, they are much lighter than others.
In fact, almost 60% of aircraft are made of composite materials. However, they also have a number of disadvantages. Now Russian developers at Moscow-based startup Anisoprint think they have found a solution.
"Different industries have a lot of hope for composite materials, but they are quickly disappointed because it is difficult to use them correctly,"said Fedor Antonov, founder of Anisoprint.
"Composite materials are very anisotropic, which means that they are stronger along the grain than through the grain, unlike metals. However, engineers place the fiber layers at different angles and then cut and drill the material, causing additional stresses that lead to defects. Developers need a material that is stable regardless of the direction of the load."
Anisoprint developed a new technology for the 3D printing of items made of composite. Thanks to the patented fiber-laying technology, the printer is able to reproduce not only the specified shape but also the structure. “Anisoprinting is a new trend in 3D printing,” Antonov believes.
In 2015, the University of South Carolina purchased the unique printhead developed by Anisoprint and became the company's first customer. Later, a private investor contributed about $400,000 to the development of the startup.
According to Antonov, Anisoprint partners include Airbus, a global leader in aeronautics. The startup is currently looking to extend the application of 3D printing. Mass adoption will allow the printing of parts for UAV drones, quadrocopters and robots, as well as soles for shoes, and eventually “a non-bending cover for your iPhone.”
Antonov said that his technology can also be applied to racing cars because composite materials can make the car lighter and stronger.