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Antonov demonstrating Anisoprint's 3D printer to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at Skolkovo. Photo: Sk.ru.

Skolkovo Resident Anisoprint Presents Continuous Fiber Composite 3D Printer

3D printing using CFRP produces objects that are more than 15 times stronger than regular 3D printers, which create objects out of plastic. A consortium formed of nine companies from across Europe will gather at Skolkovo on May 30 and 31 for an English-language conference titled Additive Manufacturing of Continuous Fibers Reinforced Polymer Composite Materials for High Performance Structural Applications, at the end of which the aim is to have a roadmap for further action.

The consortium is based on technology developed by Anisoprint, a resident of the Skolkovo Foundation’s advanced manufacturing, nuclear and space technologies cluster, which has already produced a prototype of a printer using CFRP composite materials. The international consortium, which is coordinated by Austria’s Johannes Kepler University Linz, consists of nine scientific and manufacturing organisations from three countries: Austria, Lithuania and Russia, and was formed after Anisoprint displayed its printer at the world’s biggest composites industry event, JEC World, in Paris last year.

“We met representatives of the Johannes Kepler University Linz there,” said Fyodor Antonov, director of Anisoprint. “One of their areas of activity is lightweight design, i.e. they design light and durable constructions, mainly from composites. The Austrians were interested in our technology and suggested that we take part in a grant application within the M-era.Net programme,” an EU-funded network set up to boost the coordination of European research programmes in materials science and engineering, he said.

Anisoprint forged a consortium with Lithuania’s Kaunas University of Technology, two institutes from within the Kepler University Linz, four Austrian companies and one other Russian company: the Karfidov Lab industrial design studio. Antonov met Karfidov Lab’s head, Dmitry Vasiliev, at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech): Vasiliev was one of the research university’s first students, and Antonov was at the time a senior member of staff in Skoltech’s Centre for Advanced Structures, Manufacturing Technologies and Materials.

The ultimate goal of the consortium is to establish the framework for using 3D printed CFRP composite parts as a more efficient alternative to traditionally manufactured composite components in specific industries such as the aerospace, automotive and wind energy markets.

Antonov gave an example from the field of aviation (one of the members of the consortium, the Austrian company PRIME Aerostructures, specialises in engineering solutions for the aerospace industry): the legs of seats in business jets, which are currently milled out of aluminium, could be more efficiently made from composites.

“We know their stress load and technical and economic specs, and could optimise them through 3D printing,” said Antonov. “At the end we would show that a composite leg could be half the weight and half the price of an aluminium one.”

The company has previously made international headlines for its plans to build a 3D printer for the International Space Station that would be able to print satellites directly in space.

The first day of the conference at Skoltech will feature 12 presentations, including by representatives of Skoltech and Moscow State University’s Institute of New Carbon Materials and Technologies, with whom Anisoprint also works closely. The second day will take place at Skolkovo’s giant new Technopark building, and is devoted to the consortium’s plans and devising a roadmap.

“I really wanted the conference to take place at Skolkovo so that our partners could see the innovation city and Skoltech, and the scale of the Technopark,” said Antonov. “We will show them our laboratory [at the Technopark] and our equipment, and take them on an excursion of the territory,” he said.

A week after the conference, Anisoprint will be one of hundreds of tech startups taking part in Skolkovo’s two-day Startup Village outdoor conference. The company will be demonstrating its prototype printer at the Startup Bazaar, an exhibition of 150 groundbreaking technologies.

In 2015, Anisoprint took first place in the Industrial Technologies category of the Startup Village pitching competition, winning 1 million rubles ($18,000) from the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises, otherwise known as the Bortnik Foundation.

The company has previously made international headlines for its plans to build a 3D printer for the International Space Station that would be able to print satellites directly in space. That is a joint project with fellow Skolkovo resident startup Sputnix.

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