Interview with Hemant Bheda
We transform composite manufacturing through 3D printing framework
Arevo, based in Silicon Valley in California, develops technology to enable direct digital additive manufacturing of ultra-strong, lightweight composite parts for applications in high volume. Hemant Bheda, co-founder and chairman, talks to Fibre2Fashion about how the company is poised to optimise additive manufacturing services to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) worldwide.
TT: What is Arevo all about? What does your company specialise in?
Arevo was founded to transform composite manufacturing through 3D printing framework (digitalisation) with breakthrough advancements in algorithms, materials, process and robotics-based automation. Digitalisation has transformed many industries in recent years, e.g, brick and mortar-based shopping, music, personal vehicular transportation and financial transactions. Supply chain and manufacturing are next.
Arevo DNA technology is unique in the additive manufacturing (AM) world as it features patented software algorithms enabling generative design techniques, free-motion robotics for 'true 3D' construction, and Laser-based direct energy deposition for virtually void free construction, all optimised for anisotropic composite materials.
TT: Can you tell us more about your 6-axis 3D printing platform?
Conventional 3D printers typically print in 2D on stacked horizontal planes. By making all axes available, our robotic arm in conjunction with software algorithms removes design constraints, enables true 3D printing, and provides the freedom to create. Traditional 3D printers use a 3-axis Cartesian gantry, which deposits material layer by layer on an XY horizontal plane (similar to paper printing). It is more like 2.5D printing, not true 3D.
When we started Arevo, we set out to print a 3D surface rather than a two-dimensional plane. The main advantage we saw was to improve the strength in the Z-axis direction. It was a challenge because we had to reinvent the software and find multi-axis machines for 3D surface printing. We turned to a ready-to-use multi-axis robotic arm to achieve what we now call free-motion deposition.
TT: How does your direct energy deposition (DED) process that uses laser heating lead to a 100-fold increase in production speed? How is it better than traditional methods?
With Arevo DED, instead of a heated nozzle that is typically used in material extrusion processes, a laser is adopted to provide rapid heating, which makes it a 'direct energy' process. A compaction roller compresses the filaments with sufficient pressure to eliminate the voids inside and in between layers, and consolidates the parts in-situ. Detailed studies of the characteristic control of the deposition system were conducted to tailor the optimum process parameters for any given material and geometrical features, to obtain good inter-layer adhesion and consolidation. This moves the technology from prototyping to manufacturing.
The 100X improvement factor results from the fact that the Arevo DED process combines the advantages of additive manufacturing like bridging (without support structure), overhangs and in particular, load path optimised fibre path, with in-situ consolidation of high performance light-weight composite structures without additional post consolidation or curing. This provides tremendous benefits for the manufacturing of a large variety of engineering structural parts, and finally brings the value of AM to manufacturing at scale.
TT: What are the various applications of 3D printed composites?
Combining continuous carbon fibre-based thermoplastics with our unique DED process in conjunction with our generative design, fibre orientation optimisation and predictive analysis algorithms allows the creation of light-weight and ultra-rugged structures with geometry that was impossible to obtain until now. Replacing metal alloys with carbon fibre thermoplastics is desirable in terms of increased strength and resilience and lower production costs. Further, our DED process enables complex features only possible with AM technologies. Among these features are hollow sections like the box beams, thin, curved walls as well as overhangs, which were recently showcased in a 3D printed bike frame.
Therefore, we see most applications currently in the transportation, aerospace and construction industries. But we are not specifically looking at one particular industry application; we believe the technology has broad applications across many industries.
TT: What products do you mass-produce as on date?
Arevo DNA is now enabling the 'serial' production of additive manufactured composite parts. For example, an aircraft seat bracket is currently an assembly of four metal parts supporting the seat at the bottom. Arevo generative software created a single composite part, which used the least amount of material with perfect fibre orientation in 3D space while meeting the required performance specifications. It is also important to point out that this technology can be applied to manufacture customised consumer products. For example, each one of the potential 200,000 bike frames can be unique with different designs and sizes.