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Expert Insight

EmpowerAX: Enabling Additive Functionalisation by Overprinting in a Collaborative Environment

We need to see that Additive Manufacturing is no cure-all solution for every imaginable problem. Other well established manufacturing processes from the world of metals, polymers, composites, etc. can fit way better depending on the structure in question. Eleven industrial partners from the DLR Innovation Lab EmpowerAX have chosen to strictly use the most suitable materials and the most suitable processes for any sub-component and any functional element.

This approach results in a generic use case that is displayed at Formnext 2023. It consists of a carbon fibre/epoxy composite shell structure with a functional PEI layer. The latter allows for a rigid joint when printing functional elements onto the base structure using high-performance polymers. In this specific case, a short fibre-reinforced PEI is used to create a stiffening rib structure, while continuous fibre-reinforced PEEK strengthens selected load paths.

The EmpowerAX demo part shows an industrially available process chain for additive functionalisation. It does not only show the way from topology-optimised design to the physical printing process, it also establishes a digital process chain from conception to non-destructive testing.

Highlights of the demo part feature the following:

  • SWMS Systemtechnik’s innovative path planning approach – integrated in the CAESA environment – which does not require repositioning and can navigate the optimised rib structure in a “House of Santa Clause” fashion.
  • Hans Weber Maschinenfabrik’s highly effective additive extrusion process that can reliably deposit a high throughput of fibre-reinforced high-performance polymers
  • A joint effort of SWMS and Weber’s additive team, in which the printing process has been imaged digitally and conducted physically on a double curvature shell, using full capacity of a 6-axis-robot

The EmpowerAX demo part is an excellent example of a beneficial collaboration targeting additive functionalisation by overprinting.

The speakers are:
Marc Loegel, Team leader composites and additive, SWMS Systemtechnik Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH
Erik Johannsen, Research associate, German Aerospace Center - DLR


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