3D Printing with the LE MINI Air Heater

Success Stories24 Jun 2024
Milan-based company Moi Composites makes composite objects with a process that combines the use of robots and additive manufacturing technologies. To provide the heat needed to transform resins and fibers into a wide range of objects, Moi Composites chose LE MINI heaters manufactured by Leister. We talked about this with Tommaso Geri, Materials Engineering Chief of the company.

Author: Paolo Possa, general manager, Leister Italy

Since 2018, Moi Composites, a spin-off of Milan Polytechnic University, has been creating continuous fiber composite objects with innovative materials. A proprietary process enables the company to make strong, lightweight, high-performance objects in an almost unlimited variety of complex geometries, all at a competitive cost. For example, the company produces futuristic motorboats using the 3D printing process.

To achieve this remarkable result, Moi Composites has combined some of the most exciting technologies on the market-robotics and 3D printing-with a selection of proven and reliable components, such as Leister's LE MINI heaters.

Tommaso Geri, the company's Materials Engineering Chief, describes this innovative application.

How does your production process work?

This is a proprietary Additive Manufacturing process called CFM - Continuous Fiber Manufacturing: it is an innovative technology that relies on the use of robots to 3D print continuous fiber composite objects in an all-digital workflow. The CFM process makes it possible to produce high-performance composite components and products without the need for templates, molds, or additional processing tools, without the need for autoclaves, other consolidation/post-curing processes, or generating machining waste.

What benefits does it bring to your customers?

This patented technology makes it possible to produce strong and lightweight objects with complex geometries. The technology also produces geometries that are impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods, optimizing their morphology according to the loads and stresses expected for the product in operation.

The materials used consist of proprietary thermosetting resins appropriately filled with continuous fibers (e.g., carbon, glass, aramid, natural fibers) that enable the construction of composite parts with high mechanical, thermomechanical, and chemical performance.

How did you come to the partnership with Leister?

Hot air as a heat source for transforming resins and fibers into composite components and objects immediately seemed to us to be an option with numerous advantages: clean, easy to direct and dose, with low thermal inertia, and overall cost-effective. When it came to choosing reliable heaters with excellent performance, the choice was simple: although we had never worked with Leister, the Swiss company's excellent reputation preceded it, and we contacted them to procure heating systems for inclusion in the CFM process.

The Leister catalog is extensive - how did you identify the most suitable product for your application? 

The Leister technician who followed us in our purchase was immediately available to assist us in selecting the right Leister product for the initial testing stages. We have been satisfied with the service, and we trust that when it comes to identifying a larger-scale heating system, Leister technicians will again be ready to put their expertise at our disposal.

In which application did you use the Leister heaters?

The Leister heaters were used for localized heating of composite elements during the deposition process: this phase is crucial for determining the overall quality of the process and the resulting products.

What positive aspects did your collaboration with Leister have?

In addition to the high flexibility of the heaters used, we appreciated the prompt delivery of the units needed for the testing phase and the constant technical and commercial support in all stages, from product selection to integration into the system.

Which of the numerous Leister heaters did you decide to use?

Guided by the Leister technician, we chose the LE MINI model, a compact and precise heater that allows for accurate directional airflow up to 750°C. Its extremely small size - weighing only 150 grams - made it ideal for our process.

More about Moi: moi - composites production made simple