Although not as frequent these days as it once was, F1 technology does still cascade down and out to wider industry. Graphite is now offering an exciting new development for the wider composite market. Obvious applications for aerospace include ducts, pipes and conduits, but high-end automotive intake pipes and fluid-holding tanks, electric vehicle (EV) battery cooling solutions and even precision-moulded internals for prosthetics can make use of the technology.

It has been notoriously difficult to provide high quality interior surfaces of traditional complex components made using aerospace/motorsport-grade autoclave-cured pre-preg carbon fibre composites. There are older solutions including: moulding in two halves and bonding afterwards; various dissolvable cores; soft inflatable bladders; and low-definition printed filament tooling. However, each of these has problems with leaks, questionable internal face control and consolidation of the finished composite part; or excessive, costly mandrel preparation.

Composite Manufacture

The featured part is a high-flow intake pipe forming a very visual and high-performance under-bonnet upgrade to a special edition model from a high-end automotive OEM. An exceptionally smooth internal surface for improved airflow even with the challenging geometry was easily achieved with Graphite’s SLA mandrel technology. The excellent material consolidation and overall part quality means there is no risk of boost-pressure leaks and no external finishing required.

Graphite’s new SLA (stereolithography) option provides a high-definition, large-scale and reliable solution for challenging parts.

Key benefits of this process include:

– Fully air-tight, high-definition printed hollow mandrels
– Mandrels are rigid at room temp for accurate layup and material de-bulks
– Material softens above 70°C to allow mild inflation under pressure – providing consolidation against external mould for excellent moulding quality
– Demoulding is quick and safe – can be removed by pulling out when warm and deformable without the need for chemicals
– Suitable for 135°C (and even up to 180°C) cure cycles with autoclave pressure applied
– Machine build volume of 500x500x580mm
– The process can produce composite parts up to 1.5m long

This technology helped produce a premium, desirable component with low weight, high strength & stiffness and was cost-effective for the relatively low volumes required. For the latest developments in 3D Printing for composite tooling, please get in touch.