Idaho Business Review By: Sharon Fisher December 9, 2020
COEUR D’ALENE – Continuous Composites has completed the renovation of a historic warehouse downtown here for its new manufacturing facility, which is intended to help it expand its manufacturing capabilities.
The 7,500 square-foot facility — renovation of which began in 2019 — is intended for research, development, and additive manufacturing, increasing the company’s previous build volume by 25 times.
With the completed renovation, the company now owns and works in three historic buildings in a row on the street.
The most recent building was formerly the Rocker Room, a bar, said Allie Hambling, marketing manager, in an email message. “Now it is constructed to look like a warehouse for the Train Depot and on the inside it is cutting-edge technology. The new facility is an extension of our campus – The Train Depot, Continuous Composites Headquarters, and our Demonstration Facility.”
Hambling would not reveal the cost of the renovation, but said that the company planned a close-up look at the building and its renovation at some point in the future.
The company has also continued to create partnerships with other companies, starting with Arkema and Spatial Corp. in 2019, and its CF3D manufacturing technology. Continuous Composites took part in a virtual demonstration with these and other partners last month. These partner demonstrations included:
Siemens, with its Sinumerik 840D CNC system and Run MyRobot/Direct Control platform to achieve multi-axis robotic control for automated manufacturing with CF3D
Arkema through its Sartomer Business photocurable resin solutions, which is developing a library of N3xtDimension thermosetting resins with Continuous Composites that are tailored for CF3D
Comau, an industrial automation company, provides Continuous Composites with automated systems in robot kinematics and motion controls, leveraging a six-axis robotic arm for CF3D
Güdel, a manufacturer of machine components, partners with Continuous Composites to scale CF3D technology with its TrackMotion Floor 50-foot linear rail
These partnerships help Continuous Composites scale and commercialize its technology, Hambling said.
Customers for the technology include the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Composite materials are a combination of two materials that, together, have superior features to either material alone. Historical examples include tin and copper to make bronze.
Typically, modern composite materials involve combining carbon with a plastic polymer. Together, they produce a light, strong material suited for applications where weight is a factor, such as in the aerospace industry.
Composite materials are typically thought of as expensive, but the materials themselves aren’t the issue. The problem is that traditional composite manufacturing has required pouring the material in a mold, baking or curing it in an autoclave, and then cutting away all the parts not needed in the final product. Not only does that waste part of the material, but it demands connecting fasteners, which can add to 30% of the weight of the final product.
Additive manufacturing, such as 3D printing, can reduce or eliminate the requirement for a mold, but the product has to be flat while it’s printed. And it can still require baking or curing in an autoclave, which can take up a lot of space.
Continuous Composites has developed a print head that not only combines the two materials on the fly but includes an ultraviolet light to cure the material as it’s extruded. Parts can be constructed essentially in mid-air without a later baking or curing process. The material is also anisotropic, meaning it can have different strengths in different directions, so the fibers can be printed in the direction of the stresses and strains they will receive.
In addition, the process can embed materials such as copper wire, nichrome wire, fiber optics or LEDs into the part as it’s created, creating a sensor.