A new company has sprung out of Silicon Valley that wants you to print with carbon fiber and carbon nanotubes. No, it’s not MarkForged. The company is called Arevo Labs and they’ve just announced the release of a wide range of 3D printing materials for use with FFF/FDM 3D printers for additive manufacturing applications.
In a recent press release, Arevo Labs said that the company has produced carbon fiber and carbon nanotube materials for the purposes of composite reinforcement 3D printing. Carbon nanotubes are hollow tubes made up of graphene, one atom thick layers of carbon. These nanotubes, which are stronger than steel, can be used to reinforce objects made with a variety of other 3D printing materials being released by Arevo, made from polymers manufactured by a company called Solvay. The list of new polymers for fused filament manufacturing include PEEK, PPSU (Radel), Ultem, and SRP (Primospire). The company is able to develop the ultra strong polymers for 3D printing through the use of a new extrusion technology. You can watch a teaser video of the company printing a composite part below:
Arevo Labs’ CEO, Hemant Bheda – also the CEO of Quantum Polymers – had this to say about the new release, “We are excited about enabling 3D printed Ultra Strong Polymer Parts for the first time. OEMs in the aerospace and defense industries, in particular, can now use lighter and stronger production parts not possible to manufacture using conventional methods until now.” I had the opportunity to ask Bheda a few questions about the filaments being released. In my interview with Greg Mark, CEO of MarkForged, Greg had told me that the Mark One used continuous carbon fiber, which he explained was stronger than chopped fiber reinforcement. I asked Arevo’s CEO whether or not their materials for composite reinforcement were chopped or continuous. Bheda explained that they use chopped fiber at the moment, but what differentiates their products from those of MarkForged is that Arevo “[uses] carbon fiber in conjunction with high performance materials such as PEEK and ULTEM. Further, we are fully compatible with existing printers. Our carbon fiber is completely encapsulated within a polymer matrix.”
In order to use such materials, Bheda pointed out, it’s necessary to have a printhead that can handle up to 400º C, however. So that others can modify their own machines to better suit the new materials, Arevo Labs will be coming out with a print head to specifically work with their filaments, as well as “specialized software algorithms to create 3D objects with deterministic mechanical properties.” This seems to be a more accessible model than that mentioned in the MarkForged interview, with Greg specifically stating that they had no plans to release their speciality printheads for use with other, non-Mark One 3D printers.
The announcement from Arevo Labs is an exciting one, indicating that low-cost 3D printing is expanding its usefulness from beyond ABS and PLA. In addition to the release of the Mark One, it seems that the market for composites and high performance materials for desktop manufacturing is starting to grow and that a polymer and composites arms race may start to heat up. Let’s hope that, after it heats up, these companies will be able to pry it off the platform.