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Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

Posted January 28, 2016 7:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

You've probably heard of carbon fiber. It's a specialty composite material that can be made many times stronger than steel and about two-thirds lighter. Years ago its cost was too rich for any budget but aerospace, but today we see it in many more applications from roadbikes to racecars, wind turbines to airplanes. But it comes at a premium that still makes it out of reach for the average consumer.

Enter the 3-D printer, a tool that can create objects straight from a CAD drawing or computer model. While some say these machines will be the start of the next revolution in manufacturing (imagine printing that replacement part you need straight from your home computer), the issue is that the plastic materials typically used in 3-D printing aren't durable enough for most applications. Two startup companies are hoping to change that by using 3-D printers to make their products out of carbon fiber.

One startup, MarkForged, has created a prototype print head that allows carbon fiber material to be printed in combination with traditional thermoplastics in layers. The other startup, Impossible Objects, has designed a printer that doesn't actually "print" carbon fiber, but instead stacks sheets of it which are bonded to a polymer powder through heat. Both these designs work to overcome the fact that carbon fiber is incompatible with traditional print heads and tends to gum them up.

The biggest marvel of using 3-D printing for carbon fiber products is that making carbon fiber composite parts is typically very labor and time intensive. It involves the making of the carbon thread precursor itself, followed by curing/gluing the threads in an epoxy material. For complex asymmetrical parts, some steps in the process are done by hand, adding to the cost. 3-D printing provides an opportunity to automate the production of more intricate carbon fiber parts, reducing their cost.

The companies are aiming to sell their machines to manufacturers who want to make their own parts. This may create new markets for carbon fiber material and make 3-D printing suitable for more industries. That is exciting news when considering how many ways the material could be used today if cost were not a barrier. Though in the meantime you can treat yourself to this $100 carbon fiber wallet.

Source: MIT Technology Review

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#1

Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/28/2016 8:22 AM

Like you mentioned, its not true carbon fiber, it Carbon Fiber that uses Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) for a carrier.

The basic head print head can initially handle it, but those (what I would call) more exotic materials, are very abrasive.

Even though the standard head can print with it, the wear on the nozzles (which is usually originally brass) is very aggressive. But what I see from the 3D printing is that is a good niche is to develop aftermarket parts for these materials.

The biggest thing to remember about 3D printing is designing it for 3D printing. With the stratified layering for strength as well as temporary supports for over hangs. I try to design without temporary supports, by using 45 degree angles under the overhangs.

I like to add, I printed 1/4" internal Pipe Threads... there are very accurate, But you have to plan for printing these vertical axially. I have yet to print male threads.

And like all machines like 3D printers, each printer has a personality. You have to understand your printer nuisances. If your print head shows 200C it could be 198C and both head could be different, Bed Temperature is the same. as well as filament quality. And just a 1-2 degrees, can have effects on the quality of your prints. (As well as ambient temperatures and humidity)

And filament quality is big. You purchase 1.75 MM filament, it may be 1.72 MM and you have to adjust you feed rate to that,

Or even I experience ABS filament that had a very brittle section about 2-3 feet, long.

One thing that I like to add, is software, To handle and control all of the variables that may be involved;

  • Material Type
  • Head Temperature,
  • Bed Temperature (starting Temperature and throughout the print)
  • Cooling
  • Slicing thickness, (starting thickness)
  • Infill (Type, Design and Fill %)
  • Starting Temperature,
  • Support (Standard or customizable)
  • Print head Speed
  • Filament Speed
  • Clearance

Just to name a few.

I use Simplify3d slicing software. they have configurations for a number of machines including multiple heads. As well as customizing them to meet you requirements that you have experienced.

The price I found is reasonable, $130.00 I believe... Currently, I am in the process of experiencing the filament suppliers and the quality of products they supply.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/29/2016 10:19 AM

My brother got a 3D printer and messes around with it. A few months ago he was showing off a new dish rack in his dishwasher on Facebook that he made with it because the original one was damaged. It looked pretty good.

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Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/29/2016 10:44 AM

Initially, it is user friendly as far as ready to use.

Do you know what is the build envelope size of your brothers printer?, make, model?

I know on mine, I felt it was smaller but because of the costs, I would work around it.

Which is btw:

Printing:
- Build envelope: 225 x 145 x 150 mm.
- Build volume: About 5 liters
- Layer thickness: 0.1-0.3 mm. (adjustable)
- Nozzle diameter: 0.4 mm.

Even without the best various settings to get the best out come, you still use it and can take your idea to fruition to actually hold it in your hand.

I still only had mine for about a month, and when I started to look at the different materials and the environment needed, at first it can be intimidated, it wasn't for me, but I have to admit, I wasn't aware at it.

I made a little development work center to control the environment for my printer, I kept a log of my materials and costs, its not totally complete, if anyone is interested, I'll be happy to share.

I have to add, that the printer brought back a lot enthusiasm that was dormant in me for a while.

Its' kinda funny on the events that took place;

  • To work on the print center, I had to make a cabinet,
  • to make the cabinet, I had to get some of my wood working tools (Table Saw, Router Table, Miter saw) that I just put in storage
  • To get the wood working tools, I had to clean out (organize) a space in my the garage for them
  • To clean out (organize) the garage, I had to replace the spring on my garage door opener that just broke last weekend. (which by the way, was just delivered yesterday.) so, I'll be replacing it tonight.

What a cascading of events....

ya, I can't wait to get back to using my printer again.

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Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/29/2016 10:55 AM

I haven't seen it. He lives in Michigan and I'm in California. He might not have it anymore because he burnt his house down last Thanksgiving while deep frying a turkey. Yea, he had one of those accidents. They lost everything, include all my Dad's guns.

Although he did say it was a small one. He doesn't work, he's been caretaker for his wife, who became paralyzed in a car accident in 1990, so he has a lot of time on his hands and likes to tinker. He's Ham radio licensed, tornado chaser, all that fun stuff. So he got himself one of those 3D printers to mess around with it.

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#5
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Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/29/2016 11:27 AM

I'm sorry to hear about your brother's unfortunate luck.

Deep frying turkey, that is an issue.... I like to share with you what happened to my friend.

When he got married, He had a wedding party at the community center, he also had deep fried a turkey.

Well that got away from him, and they had to call the fire department from a different township to assist. Because the community center was part of the building where the fire department was. Yes, the building was a total loss.

The upside, because of the total loss, the fire department received new equipment.

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#6
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Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/29/2016 11:51 AM

I'll ask him what model he had.

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Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/29/2016 12:13 PM

It was a G-Star Dual Head and it had a capacity to do 6" x 6" x 8" objects.

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#8
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Re: Carbon Fiber and 3-D Printing

01/29/2016 12:18 PM

thanks,

The reason I asked, I also do comparison on the capability.

Even have owned this for a short time, print time has already shown it be of a premium, For some time, the printer was printing 24 hours a day, with project on deck.

If this keeps up, I was thinking 1 printer isn't enough. Which considering, I only bought it as a hobby.

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