Rapid prototyping methods and apparatuses that produce structures made of continuous-fiber polymer-matrix composites without the use of molds. Instead of using molds, the composite structure is fabricated patch by patch in layers or wraps, using a two- or three-axis stage connected to a rapidly-reconfigurable forming surface, and a robot arm to position the evolving composite structure, which are both programmable devices. Because programmable devices are included, i.e., a robot and a two- or three-axis stage connected to the reconfigurable forming surface, the control program needed to produce a desired shape can be easily modified to automatically generate the desired shape from an electronic model (e.g., using a CAD/CAM system) of the desired (predetermined) shape.
This invention was made with United States Government support under Contract No. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U. S. Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in this invention.