Prototype manufacturing with 3D printing

It is now well known throughout the world that 3D printing is revolutionising the rapid prototyping market.  Features such as the ease and simplicity of use of this technology make it one of the most competitive in the industry.

3D printing is here to stay, the incorporation of new materials such as carbon fibre and nylon make it possible for this technology to give designers more and more interesting options, as well as increasing its popularity.

3D printing on carbon fibre

We are all used to hearing the words “carbon fibre” and thinking about the great qualities of this material, but at the same time how expensive it is to manufacture prototypes and projects in general with this material.

The truth is that traditionally carbon fibre has been used for high performance parts, that is to say, for projects that need to weigh very little, that need to withstand high temperatures or that need to resist very great traction efforts, in addition to the fact that this material is only used in very niche sectors such as F1.

This is partly due to the cost required to manufacture a piece with carbon fibre, where highly qualified staff are needed as it is a very handmade process, as well as spaces known as clean spaces so as not to contaminate the pieces.

This combination of events has made carbon fibre an unreachable material for many people, however, nowadays there are additive manufacturing processes that manage to use carbon fibre to achieve incredible qualities and bring this so desired material closer to the public.

Advantages of 3D carbon fibre printing

This material has incredible characteristics, so similar to the mechanical properties of steel, but with the weight of wood or plastic. Pure carbon fibre is 5 times more resistant than steel, and 2 times more rigid.

Some other interesting properties are:

Carbon fibres are often combined with other elements to improve their qualities and form what are known as composite materials. Normally, carbon fibre is combined with polymers, one of the best known and most used is nylon, which we will probably talk about in the future.

All the previously mentioned results in carbon fibre being one of the most demanded materials at an industrial level all over the world, however, the sectors that most exploit this resource are the following:

-Aerospace. Sending a single kilogram of weight into space costs around $60,000 according to the company SpaceX, which makes it essential to reduce weights on launches.

-Automotive. Above all at a high competition level, carbon fibre is very much in demand, thanks to its great rigidity, tensile strength and low weight, making it ideal for developing any high level part.

-Military. The military sector always seeks high excellence for the development of its material, which makes the use of carbon fibre essential.

-Civil engineering. Little by little new materials are being incorporated into the construction sector, and one of the newest and most recent is carbon fibre.

3D printing processes with carbon fibre

There are two ways of using carbon fibre in additive manufacturing.

Carbon fibre filament

The first of these is known as carbon fibre filament. This type of filament consists of mixing the matrix material, the polymer, with small pieces of carbon fibre of less than 1mm. The most used and known matrix materials are PLA, ABS and nylon, of this last one we will speak later in another article. Thanks to this filament, the final piece is more rigid and hard than the original polymer. The problem with this filament is that the nozzle can get stuck, so it is recommended to use a hardened steel nozzle.

Continuous carbon fibre reinforcement

The second is known as continuous fibre reinforcement. This technique does not cut the carbon fibres at any time, but rather the fibres are introduced into the polymer, making the piece even more resistant than the previous method. In fact, it is so strong that it is capable of replacing aluminium 6061, one of the most used and reinforced with Si (Silicon) and Mg (Magnesium), weighing half as much, clearly this printing process brings out the advantages of carbon fibre.

If you want to create your own project with high design features do not wait any more and test the carbon fibre.

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