The inside track on new 3D printable carbon fiber and flexible materials from Stratasys

3D printer manufacturer Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS), has released two advanced materials: FDM Nylon 12CF and Agilus30. FDM Nylon 12CF is rigid and ideal for functional prototypes and end-use components in automotive and aerospace industries. By comparison, Agilus30 is rubber-like, and suitable for prototyping flexible, water-resistant components.

“A game-changer” for rapid prototyping

FDM Nylon 12CF is the company’s best stiffness-to-weight ratio material to date. Chopped carbon fibers constitute 35% of the material’s net weight.

Cycle manufacturer and retailer Utah Trikes, based in Payson, UT, was a beta tester of the material. They produced a prototype of a reclining four wheeled bicycle in FDM Nylon 12CF to efficiently and accurately test the parameters of their design.

The finished Utah Trikes quad-cycle, first prototyped in FDM Nylon 12CF. Photo via Stratasys
The finished Utah Trikes quad-cycle, first prototyped in FDM Nylon 12CF. Photo via Stratasys

Ashley Guy, president and CEO of Utah Trikes, comments,

The excellent strength and stiffness-to-weight ratio of the FDM Nylon 12CF material is a game changer for us. It means we can prototype almost every part of our product on Stratasys FDM 3D Printers in under two weeks, where in the past it could take us over two months.

Carbon fiber is the key

Stratasys are not the only company looking at carbon fiber for 3D printing. Massachusetts-based Markforged are developers of the carbon fiber composite 3D printer: the Mark Two.

Airfoils - Onyx Pro
3D printed airfoils made by Markforged

VP of Marketing for the company, Cynthia Gumbert, explains the benefits of the Markforged composite material to 3D Printing Industry as follows,

We embed long continuous strands of carbon fiber (or fiberglass or Kevlar) into our parts, already made from a tough nylon base with chopped carbon fiber. This adds a level of strength and toughness not seen in other carbon fiber methods of 3D printing – up to 20 times the strength and matching that of aluminum in two axes.

Research institutes are also applying significant effort into 3D printing with carbon fiber reinforced materials. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California has successfully 3D printed aerospace grade carbon fiber components.

Furthermore Russian researchers at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), OOO Anizoprint, and OAO Central Research Institute for Special Machinery, are experimenting with strengthening the internal structure of carbon-fiber parts through 3D printing.

Full-color flexibility

The existing Agilus30 range of materials is updated in this release to be more flexible and tear-resistant. Compatible with the Stratasys PolyJet 3D printers, Agilus30 can be used to create bright color gradients, and finely-detailed objects.

Clip from “New Agilus30 Rubber-like 3D Printing Material Produces More Realistic Prototypes” by  Stratasys on Youtube

Multimaterial 3D printing 

Stratasys’ range of rubbery materials are frequently used in conjunction with harder materials to add structural depth to 3D printing projects. An ability to 3D print with flexible and tough resins has been useful in 3D printing robotic fish used for behavioral studies, and comfortable prosthetic arms.

Ben Ryan and his 2 year old son Sol with a 3D printed prosthetic arm. Photo via Ben Ryan on Indiegogo
Ben Ryan and his 2 year old son Sol with a 3D printed prosthetic arm. Photo via Ben Ryan on Indiegogo

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Featured image: McClaren Formula 1 cars in additive manufacturing partnership with Stratasys. Components of the cars often use carbon fiber reinforcements. Photo via Stratasys Ltd.