ETH Alumni develops carbon components from 3D printer

Part of 9T Labs team (left to right): Giovanni Cavolina, Filippo Kusch, Selçuk Ercan, Martin Eichenhofer, Chester Houwink next to the prototype 3D printer. (Photograph: Courtesy of 9T Labs).

Three ETH alumni have developed a 3D printer capable of manufacturing components from carbon fiber composites. Their ETH spin-off, 9T Labs, could bring a breakthrough for the manufacturing and utilization of extremely lightweight and strong parts.

The ETH spin-off 9T Labs has developed a 3D printer capable of printing carbon fiber composite parts. These are no longer made using cumbersome moulds, but are designed on the computer using dedicated software and then manufactured by the printer. Plastic and carbon fibres are combined directly in the printer, by forcing the materials through a heated nozzle.

On the one hand, the new procedure eliminates what is currently the biggest drawback of using this performance material – the high costs. The whole manufacturing process therefore takes less time and money. On top of this, the new technology allows components with highly complex geometric shapes to be produced, such as used in the construction of satellite antennae or a hand prosthesis. Last but not least, using a 3D printer means less material waste.