Devices and machines which perform additive manufacturing (adding material in a layer-wise or bead-wise manner to produce complex structure rather than removing material through machining) are maturing and entering the commercial market. While small prototype parts are routinely made using these devices, a number of industries, including biomedical and aerospace, are considering using these techniques for production parts. New materials which take advantage of the unique capability of additive manufacturing are beginning to evolve. Hybridization of materials at smaller scales now becomes possible with the precision of additive manufacturing devices. However, the fundamentals of structural performance of materials that can be produced by these methods are still to be explored and understood..
The current effort focuses on characterizing and describing the fundamental processing of hybrid materials produced using a combination of laser sintering of metals combined with polymer infusion of advanced carbon fabric. Ultimately, the work seeks to develop a fundamental understanding of the structural mechanics of these novel graphite-metal materials produced through hybrid processes. By understanding development and location of weak structural planes, effects of voids and discontinuities, load transfer from nano to macro scale, reinforcement distribution, gradients in properties, and effects of residual stress, a complete materials design process beginning with structural requirements and ending with material and process selection can be developed.
This paper will summarize the first experimental steps taken to process and fabricate a metal-to-composite hybrid joint using a combination of additive manufacturing and conventional composite processes. Experimental conditions are described and morphology of the resulting hybrids is discussed. Future plans for testing are described.