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Continuous Composites Selected by NASA for Additive Manufacturing of Low CTE Open Isogrid Composite Structure

Aerospace projects expand for NASA use

Published: Thursday, July 7, 2022 - 12:01

(Continuous Composites: Coeur d’Alene, ID)-- Continuous Composites, a pioneer of advanced composite 3D printing technology, has been chosen by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to additively manufacture low Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE) open isogrid composite structures for space applications, using its patented Continuous Fiber 3D Printing (CF3D) technology.

In space, objects orbiting the earth experience drastic temperature changes when on the dark side of the earth compared to the light side. Therefore, precision objects such as satellites and optical benches require low to zero CTE to prevent warping or distortion from the expansion and contraction due to the significant temperature swings.

This NASA award will demonstrate CF3D’s advanced robotic steering of individual, continuous carbon fiber tows to print and test a flat 1.6’ by 3.3’ open isogrid rib structure, which will have a low CTE. CF3D printed isogrid structures can be deposited onto a support surface of many different shapes, including flat, cylindrical, spherical, conical, etc. The resulting part can be optimized for the desired strength and stiffness depending on launch and space loads.

CF3D allows for the manufacture of composite structures which are impractical to produce with traditional fabrication methods. One such structure is this open isogrid rib structure which has applications in many industries, including space and aerospace. By utilizing continuous fiber reinforcement, snap curing photopolymers, and advanced robotics, CF3D can drastically reduce the time and cost of creating open isogrid composite structures.

“Given my background in composite design for space applications, I’m excited to demonstrate our unique fiber steering capabilities for this NASA project. This printed isogrid will have very little to zero CTE which is the goal for these types of space structures,” says John Brendel, Application Engineer and technical POC on this NASA SBIR. “This contract builds upon the work we have been doing in the [Department of Defense] and commercial aerospace sector, and we’re excited to introduce our unique capabilities to the space industry.”

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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.