Orbital Composites, USA, a pioneer in Robotic Additive Manufacturing of Continuous-Fiber Composites, has announced the exclusive licensing of a breakthrough technology co-developed with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The new technology, called Additive Manufacturing Compression Molding (AMCM), is set to revolutionize the aerospace, mobility, and energy industries by offering a new level of speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness to the composites manufacturing process.
The most demanding applications require the use of composites due to their superior lightweight, strength, and durability performance. However, the cost of manufacturing composite parts has been a major barrier to wider adoption. AMCM technology addresses this challenge by significantly reducing the time and cost associated with traditional manufacturing methods, while improving the quality of the final product. This agreement enables Orbital to commercialize AMCM and accelerate decarbonization efforts in aerospace, mobility, and energy verticals.
AMCM is a cutting-edge technology that combines the benefits of additive manufacturing with the precision of compression molding. The technology uses polymer and continuous-fiber AM to print directly onto a mold, followed by compression, producing a finished part with high level of accuracy and consistency. AMCM has undergone technology and application validation at ORNL, and has been shown to significantly reduce time and cost associated with traditional manufacturing, while improving the quality of the final product. ORNL recently demonstrated making 100 AMCM parts in five hours, demonstrating <3 min cycle time per part.
Orbital collaborated with ORNL in building the robotic AM system and incorporated continuous fiber printing into the AMCM process. “We have collaborated with Orbital Composites since 2020, working with their robotic AM platform and are pleased that this partnership has resulted in the licensing of our AMCM process,” said Vipin Kumar, R&D Staff Scientist at ORNL. “AMCM combines the fiber control of additive manufacturing with the low porosity of compression molding. This process will enable a high-volume production of next-generation composites that are needed as the automotive industry continues to produce energy-efficient vehicles made from lightweight, and durable materials.”
Orbital is already well underway in commercializing AMCM for the aerospace and mobility sectors, via multiple pilot projects. In a US Air Force-funded project, Orbital demonstrated the use of AMCM to manufacture propeller blades for unmanned aerial vehicles in high volume. Similarly, the company has an ongoing project with Oshkosh, to demonstrate large-scale AMCM parts, with the aim to cost-effectively manufacture >10k parts/year. Other projects are looking into applying AMCM for composite battery boxes.
The project also received support from the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI). “The development of the AMCM process is a great example of the power of partnerships to leverage the IACMI investments to create innovative manufacturing technology in the United States,” said Chad Duty, CEO of IACMI.
“Orbital always envisioned combining its innovative robotic continuous-fiber AM process with a secondary step for high-volume manufacturing,” said Cole Nielsen, Founder and CTO of Orbital Composites. “We are especially excited about AMCM since it’s a zero waste process, and can be scaled to match automotive cycle time requirements”.
“In terms of commercialization, we are already seeing strong pull from tier-1 aerospace and mobility customers, who recognize the potential for AMCM, especially for large-scale, complex composite structures that need to be produced in high-volumes”, commented Amolak Badesha, Co-Founder and CEO of Orbital Composites.