Additive Fusion Technology: Overcoming Challenges, Looking Ahead

March 7, 2024
We learn how 9T Labs is innovating for sustainable composite manufacturing and what the future holds for the Swiss company.

Key Takeaways

  • How challenges and limitations in AFT are overcome
  • Potential to produce parts at scale
  • AFT offers sustainability
  • Video reveals how 9T got its name 

In this third installment of a three-part series, Martin Eichenhofer, CEO of 9T Labs, told Machine Design that the technology is not without its challenges and limitations. These include fragmentation, different technologies, a range of vendors and being a comprehensive solution for the entire process from idea to final part production.  “Part of the challenge is that...it’s very fragmented, very different technologies, very different vendors, and the first point is being a solution [as opposed to] one element,” Eichenhofer said. “Just the software, just the hardware, just the polymer materials, the composite materials.” 

The complexity of composite materials is a challenge, he said, as optimizing fiber orientation requires good material data cards and validated simulations.

In the future, 9T Labs sees a breakthrough in the industry with the potential for additive manufacturing technology to produce parts at scale, beyond just prototypes, jigs and fixtures. This production at scale, combined with molding and the right applications, could change the perception of what can be done with composites.

Examples of advancements in the software stack could include greater intuitiveness and ease of use, enabling engineers to work with complex materials and tasks. Application-wise, 9T Labs aims to show improvements in performance vs. weight, with composite materials offering strength gains of up to four times compared to metals, he said, even while reducing weight by half.

Eichenhofer said that sustainability is an essential factor for 9T Labs. They're using thermoplastic materials, which can be remolded and remanufactured multiple times, thus closing the circularity loop. This approach reduces the CO2 footprint of composite materials compared to metals.

Watch additional parts of this interview series with Martin Eichenhofer of 9T Labs:

Part 1: An Overview of Additive Fusion Technology

Part 2: A Deep Dive into Additive Fusion Technology 

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