On the 16th of November, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) hosted the SAMPE Benelux Fall meeting 2021. The theme of the meeting was 3D lightweight structures. Apart from selected presentations in that field, visits were scheduled to the LIST research facilities, to the Gradel pilot line for robotized 3D winding of continuous CFRP and to Airtech`s large scale composite additive manufacturing facility.
In his introduction, Dr. Damien Lenoble, the Director of Materials Research and Technology, explained that LIST was only created in 2015 but grew rapidly by attracting highly talented researchers, already 200 now in 2021! This resulted in 50 published patents since 2018, 120 scientific articles published in a year, 5 patent licenses and 1 spin-off! Daniel Schmidt, the group leader for the sustainable polymers group at LIST then introduced us to the science and practical application of vitrimer composites. The ability to process vitrimers as a thermoset, to thermoform and weld as a thermoplastic and to selectively degrade these materials in specific environments for recycling purposes makes vitrimers a most interesting research domain.
Subsequently Oliver Bottler of Airtech Europe explained us how Airtech developed a range of thermoplastic composite resin compounds, Dahltram, to 3D print composite tooling. During the later visit, this technology was demonstrated at the Airtech facilities, in their impressive large scale 3D printing facility.
Anthony Cheruet of e-Xstream explained how their engineering software can effectively predict the properties of 3D woven composites thanks to realistic modeling of the weaving pattern. This allows for example to predict the interaction between the curing process and the formation of microcracks in the resin.
Lucas Janssen of CEAD showed us how his company uses an extruder mounted on a robot to 3D print at large scale for industrial applications, like aerospace tooling, building elements or marine applications.
Kjelt van Rijswijk of SAMXL made an analysis that showed that robots are typically used today in high volume manufacturing. But to enable the low volume manufacturing of tomorrow`s tailored products, the manual programming work by human programmers has to be displaced by autonomous robotic configuration powered by artificial intelligence. This challenge is immense for additive processes like composites, due to the “trinity” interaction of design, process and material.
Finally, Robin Ska of 3D systems showed how different 3D printing techniques can be used to make diverse aerospace parts, from rocket engine fuel injectors in Nickel alloy to satellite load introduction brackets in Titanium.
A short SAMPE Benelux member meeting preceded the visits by bus to the facilities of LIST, Gradel and Airtech. The day was finally concluded by a networking drink which welcomed enthusiastically: everyone was clearly glad that finally we were able to meet each other live again! The networking between peers, which is a vital component of the SAMPE experience, was back!