Printing composites in 3D, or additive manufacturing (AM), involves using successive layers of material, such as kevlar, carbon fiber or fiberglass, to form a finished product from a three dimensional computer model.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), describes the process of using successive layers of material, typically plastic extruded out of a computer-controlled head, to form a finished product from a three dimensional computer model. In recent years, 3D printing has expanded to include composite materials such as fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber is traditionally made from strings of carbon atoms that are aligned parallel to the central axis of the fiber. These fibers can then be used as is or woven into sheets to be incorporated into finished products. Carbon fiber has strong mechanical properties, is flexible, and conducts heat and electricity well. It’s only downsides are the cost of production and the long amount of time required to use, because it must be incorporated into products by hand.
Because of the expense associated with using carbon fiber, objects that make use of it are usually composites, and not 100% carbon fiber. The carbon fiber is then added only in places that require extra reinforcement or conductivity. MarkForged’s Mark Two 3D printers have two printing heads, allowing them to print carbon fiber within a larger object made of a material like plastic or nylon.