Polymer & Composite Material Development and Additive Manufacturing

National Laboratory: 
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Characterization Class: 
Extreme Environment Testing
Computational Tools Class: 
Materials Processing
Processing/Manufacturing Class: 
Fabrication and synthesis
Shaping and forming

ORNL is on the forefront of polymer and composite materials research and additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities. The collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) is accelerating the development and adoption of leading-edge manufacturing technologies for low-cost, energy-efficient manufacturing methods related to five core areas of research, including development and enhancement of new and existing composites and their manufacturing processes, composite vehicle technologies research, fabrication of composite wind turbines and components, compressed gas storage, and modeling and simulation. The Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL is equipped with capabilities that help industry adopt new manufacturing technologies to reduce life cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions while lowering production costs. The group has different AM capabilities that range from small to large-scale systems.

The Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) system developed by ORNL's MDF can print three-dimensional components larger (length x 2.5 m width x 1.8 m height), faster (up to 45 kg/hr), cheaper (goal is < $1/lbs.) and smarter (toolpath optimization). The polymer group is partaking in cutting-edge research for material development in AM. Since MDF opened in 2012, 54 polymer and composite materials have been printed, 23 of which have been printed on a large scale. In the past 12 months, 38 new materials have been printed.

Composite manufacturing and characterization is one of ORNL's main competencies. The laboratory is equipped with different composite fabrication techniques, such as vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM), injection molding, extrusion processes, compression molding, filament winding, and hydroforming. Moreover, the polymer AM group has developed several characterization techniques for fiber orientation distribution (FOD) and fiber length distribution (FLD) that provide an accurate representation for the fiber length and orientation on molded discontinuous reinforced composites.

Capability Bounds: 

BAAM-CI system has a build volume of 20' long x 8' wide x 6' tall and can deposit up to 100 lbs. of material/hour. 18 polymer and composite printers, including but not limited to the Stratasys Fortus 900MC, Stratasys Fortus 400MC, hand-built BAAM Blue Gantry, modified ShopBot thermoset printer, and Objet 30 Pro high-resolution photopolymer system. Keyence VHX2000 and Keyence 500 microscopes enable automated fiber orientation measurements. An in-house-developed software integration system with state-of-the-art equipment and fully customizable software to measure the cross-section of fibers to predict FOD. 100 ton Beckwood press Filament winding machine developed by industry partner Multiple ovens for resin curing and pre- and post-heating treatments. Beckwood Sheet Hydroforming machine capable of 5000 psi.

Unique Aspects: 

The BAAM-CI, developed with Cincinnati Incorporated, enables low- and high-temperature composite materials to be printed larger, faster, cheaper, and smarter. It also supports revitalization of the U.S. tool and die industry by significantly lowering the cost and lead time necessary to produce tools. ORNL also is exploring and developing new composite materials for AM and enhancing the mechanical and thermal properties of these materials. Utilizing in-house-developed software integrated with state-of-the-art equipment to characterize FOD and FLD measurements will assist in providing more accurate tools for predictive modeling of composite materials.


Collaborative research and development is available for various partnership arrangements with industry, academia, small businesses, and national laboratories within and outside of the United States.

Single Point of Contact: 

Vlastimil Kunc, Polymer Materials Development Team Lead, kuncv@ornl.gov, 865-919-4594

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242236583_TECHNIQUES_AND_RESULT...
  2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266353814003716
  3. http://www.osti.gov/scitech/biblio/1185467
  4. Ahmed Arabi Hassen, Lindahl Jo, Chen X, Post B, Love L, Kunc V. Additive Manufacturing of Composite Tooling Using High Temperature Thermoplastic Materials. In Proceedings of SAMPE Conference Long Beach, CA, May 2016.
  5. Love L, Duty C, Post B, Lind R, Lloyd P, Kunc V, et al. Breaking Barriers in Polymer Additive Manufacturing. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF); 2015.
Supporting Document(s): 

This capability is a user facility managed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. Each user facility has established processes for submitting a proposal and gaining access. Visit http://science.energy.gov/user-facilities/user-resources/getting-started for more information.