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The effect of tow shearing on reinforcement positional fidelity in the manufacture of a continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic matrix composite via pultrusion-like processing of commingled feedstock




Warlick, Kent M., author
Radford, Donald W., advisor
Holland, Troy, committee member
Heyliger, Paul, committee member

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While the addition of short fiber to 3D printed articles has increased structural performance, ultimate gains will only be realized through the introduction of continuous reinforcement placed along pre-planned load paths. Most additive manufacturing research focusing on the addition of continuous reinforcement has revolved around utilization of a prefrabricated composite filament or a fiber and matrix mixed within a hot end prior to deposition on a printing surface such that conventional extrusion based FDM can be applied. Although stronger 3D printed parts can be made in this manner, high quality homogenous composites are not possible due to fiber dominated regions, matrix dominated regions, and voids present between adjacent filaments. Conventional composite manufacturing processes are much better at creating homogeneous composites; however, the layer by layer approach in which they are made is inhibiting the alignment of reinforcement with loads. Automated Fiber Placement techniques utilize in plane bending deformation of the tow to facilitate tow steering. Due to buckling fibers on the inner radius of curves, manufacturers recommend a minimum curvature for path placement with this technique. A method called continuous tow shearing has shown promise to enable the placement of tows in complex patterns without tow buckling, spreading, and separation inherent in conventional forms of automated reinforcement positioning. The current work employs fused deposition modeling hardware and the continuous tow shearing technique to manufacture high quality fiber reinforced composites with high positional fidelity, varying continuous reinforcement orientations within a layer, and plastic elements incorporated enabling the ultimate gains in structural performance possible. A mechanical system combining concepts of additive manufacturing with fiber placement via filament winding was developed. Paths with and without tension inherent in filament winding were analyzed through microscopy in order to examine best and worst case scenarios. High quality fiber reinforced composite materials, in terms of low void content, high fiber volume fractions and homogeneity in microstructure, were manufactured in both of these scenarios. In order to improve fidelity and quality in fiber path transition regions, a forced air cooling manifold was designed, printed, and implemented into the current system. To better understand the composite performance that results from varying pertinent manufacturing parameters, the effect of feed rate, hot end temperature, forced air cooling, and deposition surface (polypropylene and previously deposited glass polypropylene commingled tow) on interply performance, microstructure, and positional fidelity were analyzed. Interply performance, in terms of average maximum load and average peel strength, was quantified through a t-peel test of the bonding quality between two surfaces. With use of forced air cooling, minor decreases in average peel strength were present due to a reduction in tow deposition temperature which was found to be the variable most indicative of performance. Average maximum load was comparable between the forced air cooled and non-air cooled samples. Microstructure was evaluated through characterization of composite area, void content, and flash percentage. Low void contents mostly between five to seven percent were attained. Further reduction of this void content to two percent is possible through higher processing temperatures; however, reduced composite area, low average peel strength performance, and the presence of smoke during manufacturing implied thermal degradation of the polypropylene matrix occurred in these samples with higher processing temperatures. Positional fidelity was measured through calculations of shear angle, shift width, and error of a predefined path. While positional fidelity variation was low with a polypropylene deposition surface, forced air cooling is necessary to achieve fidelity on top of an already deposited tow surface as evident by the fifty-six percent reduction in error tolerance profile achieved. Lastly, proof of concept articles with unique fiber paths and neat plastic elements incorporated were produced to demonstrate fiber placement along pre-planned load paths and the ability to achieve greater structural efficiency through the use of less material. The results show that high positional fidelity and high quality composites can be produced through the use of the tow shearing technique implemented in the developed mechanical system. The implementation of forced air cooling was critical in achieving fidelity and quality in transition regions. Alignment of continuous reinforcement with pre-planned load paths was demonstrated in the proof of concept article with varying fiber orientations within a layer. Combining fused deposition modeling of plastic with the placement of continuous reinforcement enabled a honeycomb composite to be produced with higher specific properties than traditional composites. Thus, the current system demonstrated a greater capability of achieving ultimate gains in structural performance than previously possible.


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commingled tow
fused deposition modeling
thermoplastic matrix composite
continuous tow shearing
automated fiber placement
hybrid yarn


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