Demonstration of HYDRA LCVD Fiber Manufacturing System

Free Form Fibers demonstrated for the first time its 384 fiber pre-production prototype manufacturing system, nicknamed HYDRA, in early October 2017. In its first trial run, HYDRA produced silicon carbide (SiC) fibers at over 80% of its full manufacturing capacity. This initial prove-out step showed the straightforward nature of production scale-up that is possible with laser-driven chemical vapor deposition (LCVD) technology. This demonstration also highlighted an important advancement in the progression of fiber delivery packaging, moving away from twisted fiber tows to an array of parallel fibers.

Free Form Fibers has been steadily developing the LCVD additive manufacturing approach for the past eight years, addressing the imminent need for significantly increased volume production of high-temperature-capable SiC fibers for next-generation ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) while also devising and demonstrating a range of other monolithic and mixed-material fibers for the larger composite community. The HYDRA manufacturing prototype, which will be fully tested and brought on-line by early 2018, is a significant step in meeting Free Form Fibers’ goals for fulfilling the SiC fiber market needs.

The core of the LCDV technology stack is the implementation of a laser beam as the energy source to drive a gas phase reaction that leads to a solid deposit, in this case forming a continuous, long-length fiber product. The nature of the laser beam in this process leads to growth rates in the order of hundreds of microns per second, far greater than those found in traditional hot-wall CVD. One of the key features of the Free Form Fibers fabrication approach is the use of a laser beam array to produce multiple fibers simultaneously, a system called a Fiber Laser Printer (FLaP). The FLaP allows for fibers to be produced continuously for long lengths (in the order of 10s and 100s of meters). 

Free Form Fibers will be exhibiting at Ceramics Expo 2018 in booth 365