Carbon Fiber Parts From A 3D Printed Mold And Point Cloud Data

Poker Flat Research Range (PFRR), managed by University of Alaska Fairbanks is working on several unmanned aircraft project.  One of them is converting surplus Raven UASs to run on the APM 2.5 and equip them with an extended battery pack. The Ravens will be used by researchers in Alaska for coastline, environmental and wildlife studies. 

As a proof of concept, I designed and built this carbon fiber nacelle for my undergrad research class. It would cover the APM should it be located on top of the fuselage to make more room for payloads. 

PFRR had a point cloud of the raven fuselage generated from a NextEngine 3D laser scanner.  From this model, I designed a mold that accurately met the surface of the fuselage.  After adding supports to the mold so it would not deform in the vacuum bag, I printed it on our Fortus 250mc 3D printer.  When the mold was finished, it was prepped with a mold release agent and 3 layers of carbon fabric were cut and infused with resin.  After curing in the vacuum bag, I removed, trimmed and sanded the part. 

On this first iteration, the part fit very closely with no large gaps.  Any gaps can be attributed to the rough trimming which will be simplified in later designs by adding a flange to the lip of the mold. 

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Comment by Corey Upton on December 17, 2012 at 2:09pm

I printed the mold at .254mm layer thickness.  If i had done the fine at .178mm there would be less post processing work.  With more sanding and filling and it should turn out as smooth as any other mold. For mold strength, if I were making more than one part, I would print a skirt around the sides of the mold, so that it could be turned upside down and filled with an epoxy or cement.  This way you save on material by printing a thin mold, but have the strength from the filler material you pour in the bottom of the mold. 

If I had been more careful when removing the part I could have saved the mold, but I scarred it a bit and cut some of it away with the dremel.  Again, more time spent on this would have made it better, but it was a one shot deal.

I like your project. Im working on a similar design for a student project. We are designing (and building) a research UAS for coastline mapping and marine wildlife surveys in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska.  


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