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Working together towards fibre-reinforced 3D printing

The implementation of new technologies presents a number of challenges for companies – from selecting a suitable technology to implementing it within their existing process set-up. As a result, companies look to find all the relevant information for technology implementation combined in one place. This is precisely what the DLR Innovation Lab Empower Additive Extrusion (EmpowerAX) offers in the field of additive extrusion with continuous fibre-reinforced materials. In collaboration with suppliers and users, EmpowerAX serves as an international technology driver, developing the necessary technological expertise for the successful industrial application of additive extrusion.

EmpowerAX – a new approach to collaboration between research and industry

EmpowerAX is an international, industry-neutral technology platform. It works with technology users and providers to develop and prepare the necessary technological expertise throughout the entire process chain for additive extrusion with continuous fibre-reinforced materials and makes it available to EmpowerAX members from a single source. This enables potential end users to better assess the overall parameters of their investment and the implementation outlay required by the technology, while lowering barriers to investment and accelerating technology transfer to industry. In doing so, it drives the accessibility of additive extrusion technologies for industry.


Overview of DLR Innovation Lab EmpowerAX. Source: DLR

The starting point – Additive Extrusion as a key technology

Additive extrusion with continuous fibre reinforcement can be described as an extension of conventional 3D printing. It is considered to be a key technology for the future success of thermoplastic composites in a wide range of industrial sectors. Combining the excellent mechanical properties of continuous fibres with the design freedom offered by additive manufacturing allows the reinforcement fibres to be oriented precisely along critical load paths. This means that resilient, customised lightweight structures can be manufactured from continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastics. However, additive extrusion with continuous fibre reinforcement is not yet established to the same extent as conventional 3D printing. This is where EmpowerAX comes in, as an international driver in the field of additive extrusion technology.

EmpowerAX Additive Extrusion Chain

Process chain of an additive extrusion process from user´s point of view. Source: DLR

Lowering the barriers to industry application from a user perspective

  • Is additive extrusion technology suitable for me as a user and in my specific industrial application environment?
  • How do I choose the right technology?
  • And what would I have to do to implement this technology in my application environment? 

These are all questions that potential technology users are asking themselves. As an international driver of additive extrusion technology, EmpowerAX can help answer them. The EmpowerAX team, consisting of an interdisciplinary group of researchers, determines the work required based on the needs of the industry and proceeds on that basis in conjunction with the EmpowerAX members. The findings that arise from this collaborative effort are made available to industry on a shared knowledge basis, with the results finalised over several iteration loops. A cooperation agreement provides the legal framework for this collaboration.

The DLR EmpowerAX Innovation Lab offers a platform for the testing and further development of new technologies. It allows researchers to collaborate and explore the potential of the technology in an objective way, jointly develop potential application scenarios and transfer continuous fibre reinforcement to successful industrial applications.


Overview of activities of the DLR Innovation Lab EmpowerAX to users and providers of additive extrusion technologies.

Source: DLR