Additive manufacturing by 3D-printing is an established process for prototyping, single-item production and individualized low volume production of plastic components in many industrial sectors. However, additively manufactured parts are usually not able to bear high mechanical loads. The potentials of using oriented reinforcements, a design principle used by nature in load-bearing biological systems, have hardly been accessed yet.
At the Chair of Composite Engineering at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, the manufacturing of load-bearing elements inspired by biological design principles using extrusion-based 3D-printing is being researched. Plastic materials are reinforced with nano-sized cellulose and micron-sized fibers and are then deposited in strands following the main load paths. The part is built up in the net-shape, without waste. This way, structures with high load-bearing capability and low weight can be manufactured efficiently in regard to both energy and material. By following the blueprint of nature, the competitiveness of the production of technical parts can be enhanced economically and ecologically.