New, cheaper carbon fibre additive manufacturing machine

Louise Smyth

In response to the growing use of composites across industries, Stratasys is now shipping an additive manufacturing system dedicated for carbon-fibre-filled Nylon 12. The Fortus 380mc Carbon Fibre Edition is an industrial-grade system that is being offered at €70,000 in EMEA.

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

Stratasys previously offered the material only on high-end production 3D printers in the €200K-€350K range. “Our customers are pushing us for easier access to carbon fibre,” said Stratasys’ Pat Carey. “They’ve told us they want an affordable solution but in a reliable, industrial-grade 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,” said 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 FDM to produce prototypes and end-use parts from carbon-fibre-filled Nylon 12 composite material. 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 their Cup Series drivers before building the final parts from the composite via FDM. The carbon fibre based 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.

The Fortus 380 CFE builds parts in 0.010 inches (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 inch (0.127 mm) layer thicknesses. The 3D printer’s build chamber measures 14 x 12 x 12 inches (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 in turn allows the creation of fine and intricate geometries, which wouldn’t 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.


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