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Title:
FIBER-REINFORCED 3D PRINTING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/141892
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A 3D printer comprises a print head (500) for supplying pre-impregnated fiber composite filament (800) including inelastic axial fiber strands within thermoplastic matrix material. A first heating zone (1) between the filament supply and a heated nozzle (2) is heatable above the melting temperature of the matrix. A consolidation element (9) after the nozzle applies a consolidation force to the filament to attach the filament to the part. The nozzle is heatable to at least the melting temperature of the matrix. The filament is driven through the first heating zone into the nozzle. A cold zone (6) before the first heating zone maintains the temperature of the filament below the melting temperature of the matrix. A heat break (7) between the first heating zone and the nozzle creates a temperature gap between the first heating zone and the nozzle. The print head/consolidation element is movable in three degrees of freedom. The application further relates to a method for additive manufacturing of a part.

Inventors:
HUTTUNEN, Mikko (Osuusmyllynkatu 13, Tampere, 33700, FI)
PIHLAJAMÄKI, Janne (Kampusranta 9, Seinäjoki, 60320, FI)
Application Number:
FI2018/050037
Publication Date:
July 25, 2019
Filing Date:
January 18, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ARCTIC BIOMATERIALS OY (Osuusmyllynkatu 13, Tampere, 33700, FI)
International Classes:
B29C64/118; B29C64/209; B29C64/295; B29C70/16; B29C70/38; B33Y10/00; B33Y30/00; B33Y70/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2015188017A12015-12-10
Foreign References:
US20140361460A12014-12-11
CN206048811U2017-03-29
EP3150361A12017-04-05
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOLSTER OY AB (P.O.Box 204, Helsinki, Helsinki, 00181, FI)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLA1MS

1. A three-dimensional printer (300) for additive manufacturing of a part (700), the three dimensional printer (300) comprising:

a build platen (100) for supporting the part (700) to be manufactured; and

a print head (500) including or connected to a fiber composite filament supply loaded with thermoplastic-pre-impregnated fiber composite filament (800) including one or more inelastic axial fiber strands extending within thermoplastic matrix material of the filament (800);

wherein the print head (500) includes

a first heating zone (1) between the fiber composite filament supply and a heated nozzle (2), which first heating zone (1) is heatable by a first heater above the melting temperature of the thermoplastic matrix material to pre-heat the pre impregnated fiber composite filament (800);

a consolidation element (9) located after the heated nozzle (2), to apply a consolidation force and/or compaction force to the fiber composite filament (800) to attach the fiber composite filament (800) to the part (700), wherein the consolidation element (9) opposes at least one of the build platen and previously printed structures of the part, the heated nozzle (2) being heatable by a second heater to at least the melting temperature of the matrix material to heat the fiber composite filament (800);

a filament drive (4) to drive the fiber composite filament (800) includ ing the one or more inelastic axial fiber strands, through the first heating zone (1) into the heated nozzle (2), at a selected feed rate;

a cold feed zone (6) between the filament drive (4) and the first heating zone (1), to maintain the temperature of the fiber composite filament (800) below the melting temperature of the matrix material;

a non-heated heat break zone (7) between the first heating zone (1) and the heated nozzle (2) to create a temperature gap between the first heating zone (1) and the heated nozzle (2);

wherein the three dimensional printer (300) comprises a plurality of actuators to move at least the print head (500) including the consolidation element (9) relative to the build platen (100) in three degrees of freedom.

2. The three-dimensional printer according to claim 1, wherein the print head (500) including the consolidation element (9) is movable around its selected axes; the print head (500) including the consolidation element (9) is rotatable in selected rotations;

the build platen (100) is movable around its selected axes; and/or the build platen (100) is rotatable in selected rotations.

3. The three-dimensional printer according to claim 1 or 2, wherein it further comprises a controller (200) operatively connected to the first and second heater, the filament drive (4), the print head (500) including the consolidation ele ment (9), and the plurality of actuators, wherein the controller (200) is configured to execute instructions which cause extrusion of the composite filament (800) to form the part (700).

4. The three-dimensional printer according to claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein it further includes

a polymer drive configured to feed a polymer filament into a polymer extrusion nozzle;

a polymer heater configured to heat the polymer filament to a temper ature greater than a melting temperature of the polymer;

wherein the polymer extrusion nozzle is configured to extrude the pol ymer filament to form the part.

5. The three-dimensional printer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein it further includes

a support material drive configured to feed support material into a sup port material extrusion nozzle;

a support material heater configured to heat the support material to a temperature that is above a melting temperature of the support material;

wherein the support material extrusion nozzle is configured to extrude the support material filament to form a support structure for the part (700).

6. The three-dimensional printer according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the controller (200) executes instructions which cause additive manufacturing of a layered structure of support material, polymer and the compo- site filament (800).

7. A method for additive manufacturing of a part, comprising: supplying a thermoplastic-pre-impregnated fiber composite filament including one or more inelastic axial fiber strands extending within thermoplastic matrix material of the filament;

supporting the part to be manufactured on a build platen; pre-heating the pre-impregnated fiber composite filament at a first heating zone (1) between the fiber composite filament supply and a heated nozzle (2), wherein the temperature of the first heating zone (1) is set above the melting temperature of the thermoplastic matrix material;

heating the fiber composite filament in the heated nozzle (2), wherein the temperature of the heated nozzle is set above the melting temperature of the matrix material;

applying by a consolidation element (9) attached to the heated nozzle (2), a consolidation force and/or a compaction force to the fiber composite filament (800) to attach the fiber composite filament (800) to the part (700);

moving, by a plurality of actuators, a print head (500) including the con solidation element (9) relative to the build platen in three degrees of freedom;

driving the fiber composite filament including the one or more inelastic axial fiber strands, through the first heating zone (1) into the heated nozzle (2), at a selected feed rate;

maintaining the temperature below the melting temperature of the ma trix material at a cold feed zone (6) extending between the filament drive (4) and the first heating zone (1);

interrupting heating of the fiber composite filament (800) at a non- heated heat break zone (7) between first heating zone (1) and the heated nozzle (2) to create a temperature gap between first heating zone (1) and the heated noz zle (2).

8. The method according to claim 7, comprising causing extrusion of the composite filament to form the part.

9. The method according to claim 7 or 8, comprising extruding a poly mer filament by a polymer extrusion nozzle to form the part.

10. The method according to claim 7, 8 or 9, comprising extruding sup port material by a support material extrusion nozzle to form the part.

11. The method according to any of the preceding claims 7 to 10, com- prising performing additive manufacturing of a layered structure of support mate rial, polymer and the composite filament.

12. The method according to any of the preceding claims 7 to 11, com prising performing additive manufacturing of a layered structure of support mate rial, polymer and the composite filament, by varying layer thicknesses of support, polymer and composite fiber material layers.

13. The method according to any of the preceding claims 7 to 12, com prising performing additive manufacturing of a freely arranged 3D structure of support material, polymer and the composite filament.

14. The method according to any of the preceding claims 7 to 13, com- prising performing additive manufacturing of a freely arranged 3D structure of support material, polymer and the composite filament, wherein the structure has selected area thicknesses of support, polymer and composite fiber materials.

15. The three-dimensional printer according to any of the preceding claims 1 to 6, or the method according to any of the preceding claims 7 to 14, wherein the consolidation element (9) is a consolidation ring (9).

Description:
FIBER-REINFORCED 3D PRINTING

F1ELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to additive manufacturing of a part, and more particularly to a method and three-dimensional printer for additive manu- facturing of a fiber-reinforced part.

BACKGROUND

The following background description art may include insights, discov eries, understandings or disclosures, or associations together with disclosures not known to the relevant art prior to the present invention but provided by the pre- sent disclosure. Some such contributions disclosed herein may be specifically pointed out below, whereas other such contributions encompassed by the present disclosure the invention will be apparent from their context.

Automatic fiber placement (AFP) refers to a process for additive manu facturing of composite structures, in which continuous fibers are aligned on prede- termined paths layer by layer to form the structure. Automated fiber placement with thermoplastic composites in known in the art. AFP technique is used both with thermosetting and thermoplastic polymers with continuous reinforcing fibers (car bon, glass, etc.) ln AFP, the thermoplastic polymer raw material is in the form of an impregnated, premanufactured, and solidified fiber tow. The fiber tow is fed through a printing head in which the fiber tow is heated above the melting temper ature of the matrix polymer (i.e. the thermoplastic polymer). The printing head is connected to a robot which is arranged to accomplish printing of the fiber on pre determined three dimensional (X-Y-Z) paths, and thus a desired structure of the final part is formed.

Fused filament fabrication (FFF) is a three dimensional (3D) printing technique where a continuous filament of a thermoplastic material is used. Me chanical properties of 3D printed objects manufactured by using the fused filament fabrication technique are limited due to the fact that these objects typically are composed of polymer only. This limitation may be mitigated by adding chopped (short) fiber reinforcements to the polymer to print filaments, but this does not remarkably improve the mechanical properties of the 3D printed objects.

Continuous fiber reinforcement may be used in plastic composites to provide high strength. However, so far commercial experience on using continuous fiber reinforcement in fused filament fabrication is very limited. US 5936861 A discloses a technique for fused filament fabrication (FFF) of continuous fiber reinforcement by single nozzle extrusion using pre-impreg- nated continuous fiber-reinforced raw material, where reinforcing fibers are im pregnated during a printing process on external impregnation bath linked to a printing device. The fiber reinforcement is impregnated during 3D printing in an external impregnation device located before the printing device. Alternatively, a co-milled fiber tow is used, where the matrix and the reinforcing fibers are both in a fiber form in a same fiber tow which is fed through a 3D printing nozzle where the matrix fibers melt and impregnate the fibers.

A publication "Three-dimensional printing of continuous-fiber compo sites by in-nozzle impregnation" by Ryosuke Matsuzaki et al. (Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 23058 (2016), doi:10.1038/srep23058, Published online 11 March 2016 (http://www.nature.com /artides/srep23058)) discloses a device us ing impregnation nozzle, wherein fibers are impregnated by thermoplastic poly- mer during the printing process in the specially designed impregnation nozzle.

US 14491439 and US 9327453 B2 disclose using a dual extruder to print polymer matrix and continuous fiber reinforcement. They disclose using FFF, where 3D printing of continuous fibers is performed using the preimpregnated, premanufatured and solidified fiber filament which is impregnated by thermo- plastic polymer and which is heated in the fiber printing nozzle. A 3D printer also includes another printing nozzle which is used solely to print matrix material. The fiber printing nozzle applies flattening/ironing force to the in-nozzle melted fiber reinforcement filament. The flattening/ironing force equals to a consolidation force in automatic fiber placement technique.

Both the FFF method to print continuous fibers, and the AFP method, are used to create 3D structures layer by layer by applying continuous fiber rein forcements to form final structures ln FFF and AFP, the continuous fibers embed ded in the thermoplastic or thermoset polymer matrix are extruded through a print head to form continuous fiber reinforced 3D structures. AFP and FFF of continuous fibers differ in the size and form of printed objects ln AFP typically very large ob jects are created and AFP is typically used, but not limiting to, to form hollow struc tures. FFF of continuous fibers may, on the other hand, be used to create smaller objects of any shape.

ln both the FFF of continuous fibers and the AFP technique of thermo- plastic polymers, the raw material is in form of an impregnated, premanufactured and solidified fiber reinforced tow. ln both the FFF of continuous fibers and the AFP technique of thermoplastic polymers, the raw material tow is fed through the print head in which the tow is heated above the melting temperature of the matrix poly mer, after which the fibers are laid onto the print surface layer by layer ln both the FFF of continuous fibers and the AFP technique of thermoplastic polymers, the melted fiber is subjected to a compaction force (i.e. consolidation force and/or flat tening/ironing force) which attaches the fibers to the part being manufactured ln AFP, the compaction/consolidation force is applied by a consolidation roller, and in FFF of continuous fibers, the compaction/consolidation force is applied by the outer geometry of a heated fiber printing nozzle (ironing lip) ln AFP technique this force is referred to as compaction/consolidation force, and in FFF of continuous fibers this force is referred to as flattening/ironing force. FFF and AFP may be used to extrude continuous fibers embedded in thermoplastic or thermoset polymers and to create objects from such materials by means of additive manufacturing, i.e. 3D printing. A difference between the existing 3D printing techniques and auto- matic fiber placement technique to print continuous fiber is in the size and the form of the printed objects.

ln FFF and AFP, the compaction of the fiber to the printed part occurs by melt bonding of polymer surfaces. Melt bonding involves three stages: intimate contact, molecular diffusion (reptation or autohesion), and consolidation. The inti- mate contact stage involves bringing two surfaces together under heat and pres sure such that the polymer matrix of each surface is in direct contact with each other. Once intimate contact is achieved, the polymer chains diffuse between the two layers (surfaces) via thermal vibrations, and entangle to form a bond. Finally the bond zone is cooled under pressure and a cohesive bond is achieved.

Other techniques include a device using an impregnation nozzle where fibers are impregnated by thermosetting photocurable polymer during the print ing process in a specially designed impregnation nozzle, or stacking the fiber layers on top of each other.

Despite of the methods described above, there is a need to provide a more advanced technique for 3D printing of continuous fiber reinforcement.

SUMMARY

The following presents a simplified summary of features disclosed herein to provide a basic understanding of some exemplary aspects of the inven tion. This summary is not an extensive overview of the invention lt is not intended to identify key/critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention lts sole purpose is to present some concepts disclosed herein in a sim plified form as a prelude to a more detailed description.

According to an aspect, there is provided the subject matter of the inde pendent claims. Embodiments are defined in the dependent claims.

One or more examples of implementations are set forth in more detail in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

BR1EF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAW1NGS

ln the following the invention will be described in greater detail by means of preferred embodiments with reference to the attached drawings, in which

Figure 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating a 3D printer according to an exemplary embodiment;

Figure 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating a prior art 3D printing unit; Figure 3 is a schematic diagram illustrating a 3D printing unit according to an exemplary embodiment;

Figure 4 is a flow diagram illustrating a 3D printing process according to an exemplary embodiment;

Figure 5 is a schematic diagram illustrating a fiber printing unit accord- ing to an exemplary embodiment;

Figure 6A is a schematic diagram illustrating a 3D printed parts accord ing to an exemplary embodiment;

Figure 6B is a schematic diagram illustrating a 3D printed part accord ing to an exemplary embodiment;

Figure 7A and 7B are schematic diagrams illustrating a 3D printed structure according to an exemplary embodiment;

Figure 8A, 8B, 8C and 8D are schematic diagrams illustrating exemplary structures of a print head.

DETA1LED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The following embodiments are exemplary. Although the specification may refer to "an", "one", or "some" embodiment(s) in several locations, this does not necessarily mean that each such reference is to the same embodiment(s), or that the feature only applies to a single embodiment. Single features of different embodiments may also be combined to provide other embodiments. Furthermore, words "comprising", "containing" and "including" should be understood as not lim iting the described embodiments to consist of only those features that have been mentioned and such embodiments may contain also features/structures that have not been specifically mentioned.

An embodiment discloses a structure of 3D printed objects composed of polymer and continuous/semi-continuous fiber reinforcements embedded in a polymer matrix, and a method for additive manufacturing of such a structure.

Figure 1 illustrates an exemplary 3D printer 300 including three sepa rate 3D printing units (i.e. print heads): a first printing unit 400 to 3D print support material, a second printing unit 600 to 3D print polymer filament, and a third print ing unit 500 to 3D print composite fiber reinforced filament 800. The first printing unit 400, the second printing unit 600, and the third printing unit 500 are able to move freely in X/Y/Z dimensions and in each of the possible 3D rotations around X/Y/Z axes (i.e. each print head 400, 500, 600 is controllable, programmable and able to operate in 3-dimensional space axes, and further optionally rotatable around 3 rotational axes). The number of printing units is, however, not limited to three lnstead, other embodiments may include two or more printing units to 3D print polymer, composite fiber filament, and/or support material(s), for example. The 3D printer 300 further comprises a movable or stationary build platen 100 for supporting the part 700 to be manufactured, and a controller 200 operatively con nected to the first, second and third printing units 400, 500, 600.

The structure and operation of an exemplary printing unit 500 to 3D print composite fiber reinforced filament 800 is described below in more detail e.g. in connection with Figures 3, 4, 5 and 8A-8C.

Figure 2 illustrates a prior art solution for 3D printing, comprising an extruder for 3D printing of continuous fiber reinforced composite filament pre-im- pregnated with thermoplastic resin. The fiber filament 800 may be in a form of a fiber tow 3, and a filament drive 4 is arranged to drive the fiber composite filament 800 through a cold feed zone 6 into a heated nozzle 11. ln the solution of Figure 2, the heated nozzle 11 has a geometrical feature called an "ironing lip" to apply dur ing 3D printing an "ironing force" (i.e. consolidation force) to the polymer matrix of the filament 800 being 3D printed. This "ironing force" applied by a small flat area located in the tip of the nozzle 11 is identical to the consolidation force applied in the AFP technique using a separate compaction roller. A cutter 5 cuts the fiber reinforced filament 800 to form separate components of the part ln the situation of Figure 2, the temperature between the fiber tow 3 and the nozzle 11 in the ex truder is kept below Tm (Tm=the melting temperature of the polymer matrix), and the fiber reinforced composite filament 800 has a cross sectional area greater than 6.4xl0 3 mm 2 and less than 1.3 mm 2 .

An exemplary embodiment differs from the prior art solutions for 3D printing of fiber reinforced objects in that in an embodiment the fiber filament sup ply is implemented in a different way. An exemplary embodiment further differs from the prior art solutions for 3D printing of fiber reinforced objects in that in an embodiment the consolidation force is applied in a different way.

Figure 3 illustrates a 3D printing arrangement according to an exem plary embodiment ln Figure 3, the printing unit 500 to 3D print composite fiber reinforced filament 800 comprises an extruder for 3D printing of continuous fiber reinforced composite filament pre-impregnated with thermoplastic matrix mate rial. The fiber filament 800 may be in a form of a fiber tow 3, and a filament drive 4 is arranged to drive the fiber composite filament 800 through a cold feed zone 6, a first heating zone 1 (heat zone 1), and a first heat break zone 7 (heat break 7) into a heated nozzle 2 (i.e. second heating zone 2, heat zone 2). The heated nozzle 2 is surrounded by a consolidation element 9 (which may be a consolidation ring 9) located after the heated nozzle 2. The consolidation ring 9 is arranged to gently apply (press) the filament 800 to the part 700. The consolidation ring 9 may or may not be heated.

The final attachment of the printed filament 800 and the underlying ma terial occurs in the consolidation ring 9 which may be unheated and which may protrude lower (closer to the printed part 700) than the heated nozzle 2. After the compaction, solidification of the filament 800 occurs during a cooling phase which may include cooling of the part by means of an external cooling device (not shown in Figure 3).

A cutter 5 is arranged to cut the fiber reinforced filament 800 e.g. to form separate components of the part 700.

As shown in Figure 3, the first heating zone 1 is located before the heated nozzle 2, wherein the pre-impregnated fiber composite filament 800 is pre heated in the first heating zone 1, and thus the temperature of the extruder is not kept below Tm (Tm=the melting temperature of the thermoplastic matrix mate rial) between the fiber tow 3 and the heated nozzle 2 (instead the temperature in the first heating zone 1 before the heated nozzle 2 is above Tm). The first heating zone 1 (heat zone 1) is a pre-heating zone where the temperature T ³ Tm (Tm=the melting temperature of the polymer matrix). The first heating zone 1 is located before the heated nozzle 2 (heat zone 2), and the first heat break zone 7 is between the first heating zone 1 and the heated nozzle 2. The heated nozzle 2 and the first heating zone 1 may have separate heaters (not shown in Fig ure 3). For example, the temperature in the heated nozzle 2 may be higher than the temperature in the first heating zone 1, or vice versa. The first heating zone 1 which pre-heats the material (i.e. the polymer matrix) before it reaches the heated nozzle 2 may speed up the 3D printing process because the material is pre-heated before entering the heated nozzle 2 (heat zone 2). Thus the printing process speed may be increased.

The heat zone 1 (pre-heating zone) may further improve the compac tion of fiber filament layers while also increasing the process speed lmprovement of the compaction is a consequence of the fact that the fiber filaments are heated for a longer period of time and/or over a longer dimensional area. The compaction is improved by ensuring better pre-heating of the matrix polymer surrounding the fibers 800 in the heated zone 1 (pre-heating) prior the heated nozzle 2.

The consolidation ring 9 may be arranged to surround the heated nozzle 2. The consolidation ring 9 compacts the fiber filament 800 to the part 700 being 3D printed. The consolidation ring (or compaction ring) 9 may be a separate entity attached to the heated nozzle 2. The interspace between the part 700 and the heated nozzle 2 may be larger than the interspace between the consolidation ring 9 and the part 700. The consolidation ring 9 may be formed of insulating material (such as ceramic), and the consolidation ring 9 may be non-heated. Alternatively, the consolidation ring 9 may be formed of metal, and the consolidation ring 9 may be heated by a (separate) heater (not shown in Figure 3).

The consolidation ring 9 may be arranged to function as a welding head to ultrasonically weld the pre-heated (or even non-heated or cooled) fiber filament 800 to the part 700.

A further heat break 8 may be located between the heat zone 2 (i.e. heated nozzle 2) and the consolidation ring 9 (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 further illustrates a nozzle system/nozzle arrangement/nozzle unit 500 (i.e. printing unit 500) according to an embodiment in more detail. The 3D printing unit 500 shown in Figure 5 is configured to accomplish the filament feed- ing, filament melting, passing of the filament 800 through the heated nozzle 2, and filament compaction in the compaction element (which may be a compaction ring or consolidation ring 9), in accordance with an embodiment. The compaction ring 9 may be a geometrical part of a cover structure/housing 25 of the printing unit 500. The compaction ring may thus be a separate part connected to the cover struc ture/housing 25 or to any appropriate section/part (see Figures 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D). The 3D printing unit shown in Figure 5 includes the consolidation ring 9 and the pre-heating zone (i.e. heat zone 1). The printing unit 500 may further include insu lators 7, 8, 20 (i.e. heat breaks 7, 8, 20 which may optionally be cooled e.g. by air or liquid), the heat zone 2 (heated nozzle 2), a thermoelement 21 for the pre-heating zone 1 (surrounding the heat zone 1), a thermoelement 24 for the heated nozzle 2, an air gap 22, and a heat sink 23 cooled e.g. by air or liquid. The insulator 7 corre sponds to the heat break 7 located between the pre-heating zone (i.e. heat zone 1) and the heat zone 2 (i.e. heated nozzle 2). The insulator 8 may be located between the heat zone 2 (i.e. heated nozzle 2) and the consolidation ring 9. The insulator 20 is located at the cold feed zone 6 before the pre-heating zone (i.e. heat zone 1).

An embodiment enables 3D printing of a layered structure such that the fiber layer may have the same or a different thickness compared to that of the pol ymer layer. The thickness of a single fiber layer may equal to one or more polymer layers. Preferably, a single fiber layer equals to several polymer layers. The fiber 800 may be printed to grooves formed by the polymer layer/several polymer lay- ers.

ln an embodiment, a thick fiber composite filament (diameter ³ 0.9 mm) is used, and several polymer layers may be applied on top of/below/around one fiber composite filament layer. More than 2 printing units/nozzles may be used (at least one of which is the printing unit 500 to 3D print composite fiber reinforced filament 800, i.e. the 3D printing arrangement of Figure 3). The diameter of the thick fiber composite filament may be 0.9 mm or above.

ln an embodiment, a thin fiber composite filament may be used. The di ameter of the thin fiber composite filament may be 0.1 mm - 0.9 mm. The diameter of the thin fiber composite filament may be the same or higher than that of the pol- ymer layer ln the latter case, several polymer layers may be applied on top of/be low/around one fiber composite filament layer.

ln an embodiment, the fiber reinforced composite filament is pre-im- pregnated with thermoplastic matrix material. The matrix material of the compo site fiber filament (and also the polymer filament 3D printed by the printing unit 600) are thermoplastic; thus no photo curing is required. ln an embodiment, the pre-impregnated fiber reinforced composite fil ament 800 is heated in the first heating zone 1 where the temperature is set above the melting temperature of the matrix material, before the fiber reinforced compo site filament enters the heated nozzle 2. Thus an additional heating zone 1 is lo- cated before the heated nozzle 2. This additional heating zone 1 enables speeding up the 3D printing process as the material is heated before it enters the heated nozzle 2. The pre-heating in the additional heating zone 1 also enables improving the consolidation of the printed fiber filament to previously printed material layers of the part as the fiber filament heating is improved. This may be beneficial partic- ularly when higher printing speeds are used. The temperature in the additional heating zone 1 is above the melting temperature of the matrix polymer material.

ln an exemplary method, the fiber reinforced composite filament feed rate may be adjusted. The fiber reinforced composite filament feed rate need not be linear and/or constant. The feed zone of the fiber reinforced composite filament is not kept entirely below the melting temperature of the thermoplastic matrix ma terial, because the heating zone 1 where matrix material is pre-heated, is located in the feed zone of the fiber reinforced composite filament 800. The feed zone of the fiber reinforced composite filament 800 is not entirely cold. The first heat break zone 7 between the heating zone 1 and heating zone 2, is non-heated, and the tem- perature in the first heat break zone 7 may be lower than the temperature in the heating zone 1 and heating zone 2. The purpose of the heat break zone 7 is to create a temperature gap between the heating zone 1 and the heated nozzle 2. The heat break zone 7/the temperature gap produced by it enables the control of the tem peratures of the heating zone 1 and the heated nozzle 2 independently.

ln an embodiment, the printing unit 400 for the support material (see

Figure 1) is arranged to 3D print the support material which is to be removed from the final 3D printed part. The printing unit 600 for the polymer is arranged to 3D print the perimeters (surfaces), fine details, and/or thin polymer infill structures of the 3D printed part. The printing unit 500 for the composite fiber filament is arranged to 3D print the continuous fiber reinforcement having a relatively high layer thickness (typically higher than that of the polymer) and wide line width (typ ically wider than that of the polymer, but it may also be the same or thinner com pared to polymer line width). The continuous fiber reinforcement is a composite fiber filament comprising a fiber filament pre-impregnated with thermoplastic ma- trix material. The nozzle(s) of the printing unit(s) 400, 500, 600 may be rounded. The heated nozzle 2 is surrounded by the compaction ring 9 which may be non-heated and manufactured of insulator material. Alternatively the compac tion ring 9 may be heated, and manufactured of material efficiently conducting heat, such as metal. The gap between the heated nozzle 2 and the printbed (build platen 100) or previously printed material layers (part 700) may be greater than or equal to the gap between the printbed 100 or previously printed material layers 700 and the compaction ring 9.

ln an embodiment, polymer wire used for the 3D printing of the poly mer may be in the form of a continuous 0.1 mm - 5 mm diameter polymer filament, the inner diameter of the nozzle for the polymer may be relatively small (typically 0.1 mm - 3 mm), and the 3D printed line width of the polymer is fine (typically 0.1 mm - 5 mm). The raw material filament may, however, be of geometrical shape different from that of a round wire. Any cross sectional shape of the filament is possible.

ln an embodiment, the continuous fiber reinforcement for the 3D print ing is in the form of a relatively thick fiber composite filament having a thickness of 0.1 mm - 10 mm. Thus the inner diameter of the nozzle for the fiber composite filament is typically 0.1 mm - 20 mm, and the 3D printed line width of the fiber reinforcement is 0.2 mm - 40 mm. The raw material filament may, however, be of geometrical shape different from that of a round wire. Any cross sectional shape of the filament is possible.

Figures 6A, 6B, 7A and 7B are simplified diagrams illustrating a 3D printed part according to an exemplary embodiment.

ln an embodiment, the fiber reinforcement in the parts 3D printed by utilizing the heated nozzle 2 may have a higher layer thickness than the layer thick ness of the polymer layers 3D printed by using the nozzle for the polymer ln the 3D printed object 700, there may be several thin polymer layers which are covered by a single composite fiber filament layer (see Figure 6A). The composite fiber fil ament layer(s) may also be embedded within the interior of the 3D printed parts (see Figure 6A). As the majority of the 3D printing time is typically consumed by filling the parts being 3D printed, the increase of the composite fiber filament layer thickness provided by the composite fiber filament layer(s) in the interior (or on top) of the 3D printed parts enables a remarkable decrease in the 3D printing time. The line width of the 3D printed line is dependent on the diameter of the corresponding extruder nozzle, i.e. a smaller nozzle diameter enables 3D print ing of a line having a finer line width, and a larger nozzle diameter enables 3D print ing of a line having a thicker line width.

The printing units 400, 600, the nozzle for the polymer/the polymer fil ament supply, and the nozzle for the support material/the support material supply may be accomplished by utilizing existing techniques and systems. Therefore, they need not be discussed in more detail herein.

The final 3D printed part 700 may contain polymer sections, continuous fiber reinforcement sections, and additional infill and support structures.

ln fiber filament printing, the nozzle refers to a device through which the fiber filament is ejected ln fiber filament printing, the velocity of the fiber fila ment ejected through the nozzle 2 may be identical to or slower or faster than that of the filament feed from the fiber tow 3, determined by the fiber drive 4. The noz- zle 2 and/or the consolidation ring 9 do not restrict the cross-sectional area.

ln an embodiment, the filament feed rate (determined by the fiber drive 4) from the fiber tow 3 may equal to the filament ejection rate through the nozzle 2 for a short period of time, and after that the fiber drive 4/fiber tow 3 may roll freely while the filament 800 is being ejected through the nozzle 2.

ln an embodiment, the filament feed rate (determined by the fiber drive

4) from the fiber tow 3 may equal to the filament ejection rate through the nozzle 2 for a short period of time, and after that the fiber drive 4/fiber tow 3 may preload filament while the filament 800 is being ejected through the nozzle 2.

A filament refers to the cross-sectional area of a spooled build material, retaining the meaning from three-dimensional printing, and a strand may refer to individual fibers that are, for example, embedded in a matrix, together forming an entire composite filament.

During a 3D printing process, the continuous reinforced filament is ap plied onto a build platen 100 to build a layers 700 to form a three dimensional structure. The position and orientation of the build platen 100 and/or the position and orientation of each nozzle is controlled by one or more controllers 200 to de posit the continuous fiber reinforced filament in the desired location and direction. The direction and location of each of the 3D printed materials (support material, polymer, and fiber filament) may be controlled in X, Y and Z directions and all pos- sible rotations around each of these directions. Position and orientation control mechanisms may include gantry systems, robotic arms, and/or H frames, equipped with position and/or displacement sensors to the controller(s) 200 to monitor the relative position or velocity of the nozzle relative to the build platen 100 and/or the layers 700 of the part being constructed. The controller(s) 200 may use sensed X, Y, and/or Z positions and/or displacement and/or rotations around one or more of X, Y and Z positions/axes, or velocity vectors to control the movements of the nozzles or platen 100.

The three dimensional printer 300 may include a cutter 5 controlled by the controller 200, to cut the continuous fiber reinforced filament 800 to form sep arate components on the structure. The cutter 5 may be a cutting blade, or a laser, for example.

The filament drive 4 feeds or pushes the unmelted filament 800 at a feed rate (which may or may not be variably controllable by the controller 200), after which the matrix material of the composite filament 800 may be heated as de scribed in connection with Figure 3.

The composite filament 800 and thereby the matrix material is heated in the heated zone 1 where the temperature is set to be greater than a melting tem perature of the matrix material and less than a melting temperature of the contin uous fiber reinforcement.

The controller 200 controls the position and movement of the nozzle 2, the feed rate, print rate, cutter 5 and/or temperatures to accomplish the 3D print ing.

When the part 700 is completed, the final part 700 may be removed from the build platen 100. Alternatively, an optional coating may be deposited on the part using a secondary print head to provide a protective coating and/or apply a figure or image to the final part.

The remaining space may either be left as a void or filled with separate material such as a polymer.

The heated zones 1, 2 are thermally conductive, e.g. made from copper, stainless steel, brass, or the like.

The nozzles may each have the same or different nozzle diameters.

An embodiment discloses an advanced 3D printer that is able to 3D print continuous fiber reinforcement. An advanced 3D printer and a method for additive manufacturing of a part are disclosed, which enable to 3D print continuous fiber reinforcement in alternative way if compared to existing 3D printers and methods. An embodiment enables producing stronger 3D printed objects than those 3D printed by using conventional FFF printers. An embodiment also enables minimizing 3D printing time ln an embodiment the 3D printed objects are rein forced by fiber reinforcement. An embodiment enables the inclusion of continuous fiber reinforcement to objects to be 3D printed.

ln an embodiment, the 3D printer 300 may include the printing unit(s) 500 to 3D print composite fiber reinforced filament 800 and the printing unit(s) 600 to 3D print polymer filament, but no printing unit 400 to 3D print support ma terial.

ln an embodiment, the 3D printer 300 may include the printing unit(s)

500 to 3D print composite fiber reinforced filament 800 and the printing unit(s) 400 to 3D print support material, but no printing unit 600 to 3D print polymer fil ament.

ln an embodiment, the 3D printer 300 may include the printing unit(s) 500 to 3D print composite fiber reinforced filament 800, but no printing unit 400 to 3D print support material, and no printing unit 600 to 3D print polymer filament.

The composite fiber filament is formed of fiber reinforcement and ther moplastic matrix polymer which binds the filament bundles together. The fiber re inforcement may contain one or more yarns containing glass fiber(s), carbon fi- ber(s), aramid fiber(s), natural fiber(s) (such as kenaf, hemp etc.), thermoplastic polymer fiber(s) (such as polyamide, PLA, etc.), and/or hybrid fiber(s) (containing two or more different fibers in a single composite fiber filament). Each yarn may contain 1 to 1 000 000 individual fibers.

The matrix material used to bind fiber reinforcement(s) in the compo- site fiber filament may contain thermoplastic polymer, such as, but not limited to: PLA, PGA, PLGA, PLDLA, PCL, TMC, PA, PE, PEEK, PEKK, co-polymers of various monomers, and/or blends of various thermoplastic polymers/co-polymers.

The polymer filament may contain thermoplastic polymer, such as, but not limited to: PLA, PGA, PLGA, PLDLA, PCL, TMC, PA, PE, PEEK, PEKK, co-polymers of various monomers, and/or blends of various thermo-plastic polymers/co-poly- mers/additives.

The support material may contain any thermoplastic polymer that is soluble in a solvent different from that of the polymer(s) used in composite fiber filament and polymer filament. The solvent may include, but is not limited to, wa- ter, acetic acid, acetone, oil(s), etc. Alternatively the support material may contain any thermoplastic polymer, co-polymer and/or blend which may be mechanically disintegrated from the 3D printed part after the printing process ln that case, there are no restrictions or requirements on the solubility of the support material.

Figure 4 is a flow diagram illustrating an exemplary process for 3D printing of thermoplastic-pre-impregnated fiber composite filament 800. Referring to Figure 4, a method for additive manufacturing of a part 700, comprises supplying

401 the thermoplastic pre-impregnated fiber composite filament 800 including one or more inelastic axial fiber strands extending within thermoplastic matrix ma terial of the filament 800. The part 700 to be manufactured is supported on a mov able or stationary build platen 100. The pre-impregnated fiber composite filament 800 is heated 402 in a 3D printing unit 500 at a first heating zone 1 extending be tween the fiber composite filament supply 3 and a heated nozzle 2 of the 3D print ing unit 500. The temperature of the first heating zone 1 is set above the melting temperature of the thermoplastic matrix material. The method further comprises heating 404 the pre-impregnated fiber composite filament 800 at the heated nozzle 2 to retain the temperature of the fiber composite filament 800, or to heat up the fiber composite filament 800 to a higher temperature. The temperature of the heated nozzle 2 is set above the melting temperature of the matrix material. The thermoplastic-pre-impregnated fiber composite filament is extruded from the heated nozzle 2 via a compaction ring 9, and the printing unit 500 and/or the com- paction ring 9 and the build platen 100 are moved 405 relative to one another in three degrees of freedom, by a plurality of actuators (e.g. the printing unit 500 and the build platen 100 may be moved 405 relative to one another in three degrees of freedom). Alternatively the build platen 100 is stationary and the required move ments to create the part 700 are only generated by moving the printing unit 500 and/or the compaction ring 9 in X, Y, and Z directions and possibly in all possible rotations around these axes. The compaction ring 9 applies a compaction force to the extruded fiber filament 800 and ensures that the fiber filament 800 attaches to previously printed fiber/polymer/support layers 700 firmly. The compaction ring 9 may be followed by an additional cooler unit which cools the printed fiber layer and improves its solidification. The fiber composite filament 800 including one or more inelastic axial fiber strands, is driven 406 through the first heating zone 1 into the heated nozzle 2, at a selected feed rate, wherein the feed rate and/or print rate may be controlled. The heating of the fiber composite filament 800 may be inter rupted 403 at a non-heated heat break zone 7 between the first heating zone 1 and the heated nozzle 2. The temperature of the heat break zone 7 through which the fiber composite filament 800 travels during the printing process, is not controlled; the first heating zone 1 and the heated nozzle 2 are thermally separated (insulated) from each other by the heat break zone 7. To form the part 700, the filament 800 is adhered 407 to the part 700 (e.g. to the previously printed fiber, polymer or sup port layers) or the build platen 100. The filament 800 may be cut 408 by a cutter 5 e.g. when the part 700 is completed 409, when the supplied material is changed e.g. to polymer filament/support material, or when the design of the part 700 so re quires.

ln an embodiment, the solidification occurs during the cooling phase af ter the heated nozzle 2.

Figure 7A and 7B are schematic diagrams (perspective, side and top views) illustrating a 3D structure according to an exemplary embodiment.

ln a printed structure (i.e. in the 3D printed part 700) according to an embodiment, the fiber reinforcement appears as a 0.1 mm - 10 mm thick filament ln an embodiment, the inner diameter of the heated nozzle 2 (i.e. the second heat- ing zone 2) is typically 0.1 mm - 20 mm, and the printed line width is 0.2 mm - 40 mm.

A single fiber reinforcement (printed by using the fiber printing unit 500) may have a layer thickness higher than that of a single polymer layer (printed by using the polymer printing unit 600). Thus, in the part 700 printed by the method and 3D printer in accordance with an embodiment, there may be several polymer layers on the same height which only one fiber layer covers. The fiber lay ers may be embedded in the interior of the 3D printed part 700. As the majority of printing time is typically consumed by filling the part 700 being printed, the in crease of layer thickness by the thick fiber layer(s) in the interior of the part re- markably decreases the printing time.

The part 700 may comprise four sections: polymer structure(s), contin uous or semi-continuous fiber reinforcement, additional infill, and support mate rials). To accomplish the 3D printing, a 3D model is loaded and printing parame ters are set for the sections of the part. The 3D model is loaded and the parameters are set such that as a result of the printing, the polymer structures form/define the outer and inner shape of the part, the support material(s) form the support struc ture^) for the part 700, the fiber reinforcement reinforces the part, and the addi tional infill fills empty spaces/areas in the fiber layer(s) (i.e. between the fiber fila ments 800 printed) of the part 700, to complete the part. The printing parameters include e.g. the layer height of each layer. Figures 8A, 8B, 8C and 8D are schematic diagrams illustrating exem plary structures of the print head including the consolidation element 9 and the first heating zone 1. A cross section via line A-A is shown.

ln Figure 8A, the consolidation element is a fixed part of a print head cover structure. The print head structure shown in Figure 8A is similar to the struc ture shown in Figure 5.

ln Figure 8B, the consolidation element is not a fixed part of the print head cover structure; instead the consolidation element is movable in relation to the print head cover structure.

ln Figure 8C, the consolidation element is not a fixed part of the print head cover structure (instead the consolidation element is movable in relation to the print head cover structure), and after the consolidation element there is an ad ditional member, e.g. a heating unit 26, a cooler ultrasonic welding head 26, etc.

ln Figure 8D, the consolidation element is a fixed part of the print head cover structure, and after the consolidation element there is an additional member, e.g. a heating unit 26, a cooler ultrasonic welding head 26, etc.

Otherwise, the print head structures shown in Figure 8B, 8C and 8D are largely similar to the print head structure shown in Figure 5. Example 1

A G-code for fiber printing and polymer printing was created using cus tom made software from a 3D design of the object to be 3D printed. According to the created G-code, the continuous fiber reinforcement was 3D printed in grooves created by 3D printing polymer material. Separate printing units/nozzles were used for the polymer material and the continuous fiber reinforcement. The diame ter of the fiber filament used was 1.8 mm. The fiber filament was 3D printed into grooves (having a height of 0.6 mm, and a width of 4.2 mm) 3D printed in the part being manufactured. A single fiber layer covered the whole groove (i.e. the height of the groove was equal to the height of a single fiber layer). Additional infill struc- ture was 3D printed by using the polymer nozzle to fill the area surrounded by the fiber layer. The polymer material was 3D printed in 0.3 mm layer thickness. There fore, the thickness of one fiber layer was equal to the thickness of two polymer lay ers (see Figure 6A). Example 2

The G-code for fiber printing and polymer printing was created using custom made software from a 3D design of the object to be 3D printed. According to the created G-code, the continuous fiber reinforcement was 3D printed in grooves created by 3D printing polymer material using separate printing units/nozzles for the polymer material and the continuous fiber reinforcement. The diameter of the fiber filament used was 1.0 mm. The fiber filament was 3D printed into grooves (having a height of 0.3 mm, and a width of 2.6 mm) 3D printed in the part being manufactured. A single fiber layer covered the whole groove (i.e. the height of the groove was equal to the height of a single fiber layer). Additional infill structure was 3D printed by using the polymer nozzle to fill the area sur rounded by the fiber. The polymer material was 3D printed in 0.3 mm layer thick ness. Therefore, the thickness of one fiber layer was equal to the thickness of one polymer layer (see Figure 6B).

Example 3

The G-code for fiber printing and polymer printing was created using custom made software from a 3D design (3D model) of the object to be 3D printed (see Figure 7A, 7B). According to the created G-code, fiber reinforcement, polymer, and support materials were 3D printed. The continuous fiber reinforcement was 3D printed in grooves created by 3D printing polymer material using separate printing units/nozzles for the polymer material, the continuous fiber reinforce ment, and the support material. The diameter of the fiber filament used was 1.8 mm. The fiber filament was 3D printed into grooves (having a height of 0.6 mm, and a width of 4.2 mm) 3D printed in the part being manufactured. A single fiber layer covered the whole groove. Additional infill structure was 3D printed by using the polymer nozzle to fill the area surrounded by the fiber. The polymer material was 3D printed in 0.3 mm layer thickness. Therefore, the thickness of one fiber layer was equal to the thickness of two polymer layers (see Figure 6A). Support material was 3D printed on selected areas in accordance with the G-code (see Fig ure 7A, 7B). lt will be obvious to a person skilled in the art that, as the technology advances, the inventive concept can be implemented in various ways. The inven- tion and its embodiments are not limited to the examples described above but may vary within the scope of the claims.