WEAV3D Inc., a manufacturing technology company, has reportedly been awarded a $999,943 NSF (National Science Foundation) SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Phase II grant.
This 2-year grant will fund the fabrication, testing, and design of the continuous composite forming machine that adopts ultrasonic welding to boost the production throughput of the company’s patent-pending continuous composite forming process.
The NSF SBIR Phase II project will address the traditional challenges in manufacturing composites. Despite the production of stiff, lightweight, and strong components, these processes come along with limitations like low production throughput and high part costs. The WEAV3D process, however, can combine weaving and composite consolidation into a continuous, automated process to curb waste, material handling costs, and cycle times.
For instance, its Rebar for Plastics® approach can enhance the strength and stiffness of composite parts while minimizing weight, which will lead to the innovations of the automotive & construction industries at a fraction of cycle time and cost associated with the traditional composite manufacturing. Other major impacts of traditional composite manufacturing methods include high reliance on energy-intensive curing processes, thereby resulting in a high energy per unit mass and contributing to the overall carbon dioxide footprint of finished parts.
Apart from the recent grant, WEAV3D has also been awarded the NSF SBIR Phase I grant worth $224,718 to investigate the availability of alternative thermal consolidation methods in a bid to reduce embodied energy by up to 60% in relation to the infrared consolidation baseline.
According to Chris Oberste, Ph.D., WEAV3D’s Founder & CEO, the company has demonstrated an 85% reduction in embodied energy via the replacement of infrared heating with ultrasonic welding to consolidate thermoplastic yields during Phase I. Its proposed research activities for Phase II are expected to translate this reduction in embodied energy into high improvements of the production speed through the fabrication & testing of the next-gen composite forming machine.
This next-generation system is likely to have a production capacity of 200,000-300,000 automotive parts in a year.