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Stratasys Ships affordable 3D printer for carbon fibre

In response to the growing use of composites across industries, Stratasys is shipping an affordably priced additive manufacturing system dedicated to carbon fibre-filled nylon 12 (polyamide 12). The Fortus 380mc Carbon Fiber Edition is an industrial quality system that is being offered at $70,000 in the US.

Recently composite material has seen a year-over-year market growth of 8-12%, the company says. Carbon fibre composite applications and carbon fibre reinforced polymers are considered clean energy technologies by the US Department of Energy because they enable lightweighting, which reduces energy consumption. It is estimated that each 10% reduction in vehicle mass drives a 6-8% increase in fuel economy.

Stratasys was one of the first to offer a carbon fibre filled composite for additive manufacturing, but it previously offered the material only on high-end production 3D printers in the $200,000-$350,000 range.

“Our customers are pushing us for easier access to carbon fibre,” explains Stratasys Senior Vice President of Sales, Pat Carey. “They’ve told us they want an affordable solution but in a reliable, industrial-quality system. So we’re now offering a more accessible system that’s based on our Fortus 380mc platform. Because the 380mc CFE is dedicated only to carbon fibre-filled nylon 12 and one other material, we’re able to currently offer it at the lowest price for any of our industrial printers.”

“For many years, the additive manufacturing industry has seen a need for a diversity of machines that produce parts in high-strength composite materials,” says Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates, an additive manufacturing industry consultancy. “I’m hopeful the newest machine from Stratasys will help to meet this need by offering strong parts in carbon fibre and nylon 12.”

For both its IndyCar and NASCAR race cars, Team Penske uses fused deposition modelling (FDM) to produce prototypes and end-use parts from carbon fibre-filled nylon 12. The team recently used the composite to produce a mirror housing for its NASCAR race teams. After designing the mirror housing, engineers then customised the design for each of its Cup Series drivers before building the final parts from the composite via FDM. The carbon fibre material enabled Team Penske to produce lightweight mirror housings with high impact resistance and high stiffness, each of which is critical in motorsports. The composite’s stiffness is especially beneficial when making thin-walled parts, so the parts won’t flex under the aerodynamic loads produced on track.

Additive manufacturing applications for carbon fibre-filled nylon 12 may include:

  • functional prototyping of composite or metal parts;
  • short production runs in a high-strength material;
  • producing lightweight assembly tools for better ergonomics and reduced worker fatigue;
  • replacing metal parts with high strength, lightweight composite ones.

Stratasys expects the quickest adopters of its Fortus 380mc CFE 3D Printer to be those making tooling and fixtures and those in industries such as automotive, recreational sporting equipment, marine, orthosis and prosthesis, defence, aerospace, medical equipment, and oil and gas.

Similar to a typical injection moulded carbon fibre reinforced plastic part, Stratasys Nylon 12CF is 35% chopped carbon fibre by weight, and the company says it exhibits the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio of any FDM or fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printed part.

The Fortus 380mc CFE is based on a proven platform that produces parts with repeatable dimensional accuracy. Parts do not exhibit appreciable warpage or shrinkage and will hold to a tight tolerance. Stratasys reports that Nylon 12CF is up to four times stronger than a competitively priced alternative in the x and y axis, and it will maintain its mechanical properties at a 40% higher temperature. The Fortus 380mc CFE is between two and five times faster than the competitively priced carbon fibre-based 3D printer.

The Fortus 380mc CFE builds parts in 0.010 in. (0.254 mm) layer thickness. The system is also compatible with ASA thermoplastic, for which is can build in either 0.010 or 0.005 in. (0.127 mm) layer thicknesses. The printer’s build chamber measures 14 x 12 x 12 in. (355 x 305 x 305 mm). It offers water-soluble support material removal, which eliminates the need for manual labour to remove the supports. This allows the creation of fine and intricate geometries, which would not be possible without the soluble support material, because the fine features could be destroyed during cleaning, or intricate geometries might be too laborious or impossible to remove the support material.

Companies: Stratasys

Industries: Automotive and Road Transportation

Technologies: Additive Manufacturing

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