A new additive manufacturing (AM) approach to fabricate long fiber reinforced composites (LFRC) was proposed in this study. A high deposition rate was achieved by the implementation of a single-screw extruder, which directly used thermoplastic pellets and continuous fiber tows as feedstock materials. Thus, the proposed method was also used as a large-scale additive manufacturing (LSAM) method for printing large-volume components. Using polylactic acid (PLA) pellets and continuous carbon fiber tows, the feasibility of the proposed AM method was investigated through printing LFRC samples and further demonstrated by fabricating large-volume components with complex geometries. The printed LFRC samples were compared with pure thermoplastic and continuous fiber reinforced composite (CFRC) counterparts via mechanical tests and microstructural analyses. With comparable flexural modulus, the flexural strength of the LFRC samples was slightly lower than that of the CFRC samples. An average improvement of 28% in flexural strength and 50% in flexural modulus were achieved compared to those of pure PLA parts, respectively. Discontinuous long carbon fibers, with an average fiber length of 20.1 mm, were successfully incorporated into the printed LFRC samples. The carbon fiber orientation, distribution of carbon fiber length, and dispersion of carbon fiber as well as porosity were further studied. The carbon fibers were highly oriented along the printing direction with a relatively uniformly distributed fiber reinforcement across the LFRC cross section. With high deposition rate (up to 0.8 kg/hr) and low material costs (< $10/kg), this study demonstrated the potentials of the proposed printing method in LSAM of high strength polymer composites reinforced with long carbon fibers.

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