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High-Performance Molded Composites Using Additively Manufactured Preforms with Controlled Fiber and Pore Morphology...

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Additive Manufacturing
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In this work, large-scale multimaterial preforms produced by additive manufacturing (AM) underwent compression molding (CM) to produce high-performance thermoplastic composites reinforced with short carbon fibers. AM and CM techniques were integrated to control the fiber orientation (microstructure) and to reduce void content for the improved mechanical performance of the composite. The new integrated manufacturing technique is termed “additive manufacturing-compression molding” (AM-CM). For the present study, the most common materials were used for large-scale printing, i.e., acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), carbon fiber (CF)–filled ABS (CF/ABS) and glass fiber (GF)–filled ABS (GF/ABS). Three different manufacturing processes; (a) AM (b) extrusion compression molding (ECM), and (c) AM-CM were used to prepare four different panel configurations: (1) neat ABS, (2) CF/ABS, (3) overmold (CF/ABS over neat ABS), and (4) sandwich (neat ABS between two CF/ABS layers). The mechanical properties (tensile and flexural strength and modulus, and Izod impact energy) of samples prepared via all three manufacturing processes were compared. X-ray microcomputer tomography was employed to evaluate the fiber orientation distribution and the volumetric porosity content. The preform maintained high fiber alignment (≈ 82% of fibers within the range of 0–20° in the deposition direction), and the volumetric porosity was reduced by 50% from 3.79% to 1.91% after compression. The alignment of long pores along the deposition direction was also observed. The mechanical properties are discussed with correlation to the fiber alignment and void content in the samples. CF/ABS samples prepared by AM-CM showed significant improvement of 11.15%, 35.27%, 28.6%, and 74.3% in the tensile strength, tensile modulus, flexural strength, and flexural modulus, respectively, when compared with samples prepared by ECM. Unique aspects of this study are the demonstration of large-scale multimaterial AM and the use of multimaterials as preforms to make high-performance composites.