Innovative models for the design of 3D printed composite materials

Title of the research project

Innovative models for the design of 3D printed composite materials

Scientific area 

Aerospace engineering, Products and processes engineering

Project coordinator

Alfonso Pagani


PRE-ECO project will develop new mathematical models to allow the industrial use of 3D printed composite VAT (Variable Angle Tow Materials) with the objective of obtaining lighter and more robust components for various applications such as aeronautics.

Description of the research project 

Nowadays, additive manufacturing processes allow the emergence of a new class of composite materials (i.e. materials made of different constituents at the macro-scale): the Variable Angle Tow (VAT) composites. In VAT composites, fibers are placed along a curvilinear path, making possible a point-wise variation of the material properties that allows the characterization of lighter and resistant materials.

The industrial application of this technology is still not possible because, during the 3D printing of VAT composites, unavoidable undesired defects are produced, such as gaps, overlaps or fibre kinking.

PRE-ECO project aims at setting a radically new approach to this problem, moving from the modelling of VAT composite materials. The use of innovative numerical methods will allow to virtually model materials taking into account in a precise way defects produced during fabrication and their propagation from the fiber scale up to the final structure. It will consequently open new scenarios for microstructure reconstruction, structure-property predictions, and optimum design of VAT.

The project is highly multidisciplinary and will produce significant advances in different scientific areas such as structural mechanics, numerical calculus, artificial intelligence algorithms, 3D printing and, more generally, additive manufacturing. The project will pave the way to new applications in many fields of engineering such as aerospace, bio-engineered materials and meta-structures.

Impact on society 

Preliminary studies have shown that the utilization of a VAT materials allows for obtaining superior mechanical characteristics in terms of stiffness and strength when compared to classical composites. PRE-ECO will allow the use of those materials in industrial processes. Aeronautic applications will produce significant advantages in environmental sustainability of flights. For example, by using VAT composites we could further reduce the fuel consumption of 3-4% with respect to last generation aircraft. Considering the number of circulating airplanes, this would bring to a significant improvement of the environmental impact of aeronautics.

Short CV of project coordinator

Alfonso Pagani earned a Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering at City University of London in 2016 and, earlier, a Ph.D. in Fluid-dynamics at Politecnico di Torino, where he currently serves as researcher at  DIMEAS - Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research activities are mainly related to the development of refined models for aerospace structures; composites; numerical methods for solid mechanics; geometrical nonlinearities and post-buckling. He is the co-author of about 100 publications, including 75 papers in International Journals.

PRE-ECO project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme  grant agreement No 850437

  • Budget: 1.478.000 euro
  • Start date: 1/01/2020
  • End date: 31/12/2024