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Topology optimized carbon fiber polypropylene parts are "taking-off"!

Written by Jake Fallon

Published on March 2, 2021

Additive manufacturing (AM) has enabled the production of designs that were thought to be impossible 25 years ago. The impressive fact is that these additive-based technologies continue to advance and improve at a rapid pace, further enhancing design functionality. However, often overlooked are the two essential constituents that enable this rapid advancement. These essential constituents include design optimization and advanced materials.


Key Software Capabilities

  • Topology optimization

Design optimization

Traditionally manufactured objects often have physical limitations on the type of geometries you can produce. Want to injection mold something? It will need to have a parting line where both mold halves can separate without damaging the part. Absolutely, there are ways to overcome some of these limitations but these solutions often add time, complexity and/or cost. In the world of AM, complexity is essentially free. An open 3D space that will produce any geometry that you could imagine. 

However, up until nTop, producing “anything you could imagine” wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Traditional CAD software is programmed in ways that support the design of traditionally manufactured parts. nTop software has completely changed the tools that designers and engineers have in their tool belt. Offering a suite of design options from topology optimization, simulation, and the ability to create complex lattice geometries, just to name a few.

Optimized design of a drone arm.

Advanced materials

The keystone that bridges the gap between design and manufacturing technology is the advanced materials we utilize to produce next-generation parts. Advanced materials are what enable the complex designs to come to life and without them, the 3D printing technologies would be limited to printing non-functional prototypes. The advanced materials available today have enabled special characteristics and functionalities such as chemical resistance, low density, high stiffness, toughness, watertight ability, and many more. Having these built-in characteristics provide designers with more options to improve design and performance.

Materials like Braskem’s recently released FL100PP and FL105PP filaments are great examples of how new functionality is coming to the AM market. These polypropylene (PP) products offer many of the aforementioned performances while most importantly maintaining a high degree of printability, ensuring success while printing any complex design. The product line will be expanding in the near future with the release of advanced polypropylene materials which maintains the high degree of printability while also offering high-level performance, making this material suitable for many engineering type applications.

Simulation of drone arm in nTop.

Drone arm case study

In order to demonstrate the synergies between advanced materials, design optimization, and AM technologies, we will share a case study for a drone arm that explores the performance improvements you can expect to capture when applied to your application. This specific case study utilizes a drone arm made from carbon fiber filled PP, with a design that was optimized using nTop software and printed using fused filament fabrication (FFF). nTop simulation tools were utilized to realize the performance improvements of the part before ever producing a physical part on an FFF machine.

The assembled final part on the drone.

Jake Fallon

Jake Fallon is a technology development engineer on the 3D printing team at Braskem. Jake attended undergraduate school at Penn State for Plastics Engineering and graduate school at Virginia Tech where he received his Ph.D. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Jake has over 7 years of experience in the 3D printing industry and has developed expertise in areas ranging from fundamental material research to end-use application development.