Professor Barton and her colleagues have developed the first and currently only commercialized continuous fiber reinforced polymers (FRP) 3D printers that enable 3D contoured deposition of FRP. Currently FRP printing techniques are unable to align fibers along a contoured surface, therefore preventing them from creating shell structures with similar strength-to-weight ratios as those made with traditional layering/mold approaches. The FRP printing system designed by Professor Barton et al. provides the first demonstration of 3D printed FRP patterns with the fibers aligned along the contour profile. This represents a significant step towards customized 3D printing of functional contoured structures. Additionally, advancements in the printhead design will address the need for a faster, more flexible and robust printing system.
The advancement of this new design by Professor Barton et al. will be two-fold: (1) Customized 3D printing of contoured FRP components will enable the use of FRPs in applications ranging from the automotive and aerospace industries to the biomedical field. (2) The co-axial fiber provides a unique structural support mechanism that can be leveraged during the fabrication process to customize the strength-to-weight ratio, and provide previously unattainable 3D printed design features such as overhanging features, contoured shell structures, and 3-dimentional shapes.
The inventors have already participated in the I-Corps focusing on medical implants (prosthetics), but learned that the market opportunity would be very small. However, their solutions can provide a better manufacturing process for low volume, high strength, customized parts (e.g., like prosthetics). Therefore, Professor Barton and his colleagues would like to explore other secondary markets, such as back braces for sclerosis, sports equipment, drone propeller blades, as well as identify some new markets. In addition, they would also like to validate that their solution is truly novel. Specifically, they would like TSL to conduct market research to explore market opportunities and conduct competitor (an Isreali company) analyses to figure out the current state-of-the-art.
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