Can You 3D Print Carbon Fiber?

by Mike Brooks | Last Updated: September 19, 2021

Can you 3D print carbon fiber? Yes, You can 3D print using carbon fiber! Over the years, carbon fiber materials have been used for manufacturing many structural designs.

Can You 3D Print Carbon Fiber

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Some of the products that can be created using carbon fiber composites include aircraft wings, bike frames, propeller blades, and car components, among many others.

So, traditionally, carbon fiber application in manufacturing products remains varied and extensive. It eventually prompted the 3D printing industry to take note of how to incorporate material carbon fiber in the additive 3D printing process.

Notably, carbon fiber 3D printing proves attractive because carbon fiber enjoys a high strength to weight ratio, a rare property found in any other 3D printing filament material.

Due to the numerous benefits of carbon fiber, many 3D printing companies offer carbon fiber reinforced material or technologies designed to maximize the use of this composite for a higher performance application.

In 3D printing, carbon fiber printing is done in two different ways, first through the use of fiber-reinforced filaments and, secondly, by continuous carbon fiber reinforcement.

Is 3D Printed Carbon Fiber Strong?

Notably, the best-known property of carbon fiber material remains its high strength that guarantees the high stability of 3D printing. Chopped carbon fiber filaments use short carbon fibers that consist of segments that are less than a millimeter long.

The carbon fiber filament is mixed with a thermoplastic material known as base material to produce a solid composite carbon fiber filament.

The fibers prove extremely strong because the carbon atoms and micro-automated fiber placement process ensure carbon atoms bonded provides the requisite strength in carbon fiberfill.

Several filaments can be found in the market with carbon fiberfill. These include popular thermoplastic filaments like ABS, PLA, Nylon, PETG, and Polycarbonate.

Related: PLA vs. PETG. What Is the Best One?

Carbon fiber reinforcement polymer (CFRP), a polymer matrix composite material reinforced using carbon fiber, contains a unique strength. Its reinforcement may be achieved in the form of continuous or discontinuous carbon fiber use.

As much as reinforced carbon fibers are expensive, they possess the highest specific mechanical properties.

Carbon fiber reinforced filaments are known to be extremely strong. It enables the carbon fiber filament to exhibit unparallel strength and stiffness. It also reduces the overall weight making it ideal to use in printing light objects or end-use parts.

Carbon fiber reinforced filaments are more robust than any other material or carbon fibers that have not been supported. However, to obtain an even stronger filament, a technique known as carbon fiber reinforcement may be deployed.

As the carbon fiber remains unchopped, it retains much of its strength, and that makes continuous carbon fiber 3Dprinting more vital enough to replace the use of aluminum at half its weight.

For some applications, it may replace metal 3D printing as the filament is cheaper compared to metal.

Nylon carbon fiber is quite a popular composite in the carbon fiber 3D printing industry. Already endowed with desirable qualities for printing technical materials, its high degree of strength and high heat resistance makes it a popular choice for most 3D printing hobbyist.

It exhibits a high degree of durability that balances the original brittleness of the carbon fiber. Its only undoing remains its hygroscopic properties that burden proper environmental protection for the nylon carbon fiber spools.

Its best known for the use of injection-molded consumer products. As a solid base polymer, ABS carbon retains an excellent surface finish for its products. That makes it great for applications in prototypes and end-use parts.

The flip side is that it requires a heated build chamber only found in high-end 3D printers.

One of the most used carbon fiber reinforced materials is PETG carbon fiber. It’s known for resisting chemicals and moisture, making it an excellent composite polymer for applications under such hygroscopic circumstances.

What 3D Printer Can Print Carbon Fiber?

Not all printers in the market can be used to print carbon fiber material. To achieve better results, you may need to use specialized carbon fiber 3Dprinters.

Not every printer can print with 3D carbon fiber filament as these materials require a high extrusion temperature of about 200 degrees centigrade. Its abrasive form may ruin the brass printer nozzles.

Examples of Carbon Fiber 3D Printers

Let’s see what 3D printers can print carbon.

This printer is manufactured in Italy by WASP and prints in various materials that include carbon fiber composites.

WASP 2040 boasts of a dual gear filament driver for better use of continuous fiber material composite materials.

This model has an independent dual extruder feature. It uses carbon fiber filaments and has a hardened steel nozzle that can get up to 300 degrees centigrade.

Raise3D E2 Desktop 3D Printer - Features IDEX (Independent Dual Extruders), Auto Bed Leveling, Video-Assisted Offset Calibration, Power Loss Recovery, Filament Run-Out Sensors

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This 3D printer is targeted for the replacement parts market for metal parts. They use reinforced Nylon that optimizes high strength and heat resistance. They have a composite extruder with the capacity to handle abrasive materials.

MakerBot Method 3D Printer, black

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Another critical feature it retains is the hardened metal drive gears and an interchangeable hardened steel nozzle to cope with the maximum nozzle temperature high in carbon fiber 3D printing.

This printer remains excellent for use with carbon composites. It’s known to be a perfect machine that costs cheaper and has a maximum nozzle temperature of 300 degrees.

Fusion 3 F410 carbon fiber printer does well with most reinforced carbon fibers, and its affordability makes it a favorite of many 3D printer users.

How Do You Print Carbon Fiber?

Carbon fiber filaments consist of tiny fibers infused into the base material to improve material properties.

The strength of the fiber causes the filament to be equally strong and enjoys a higher stiffness level. It enables the 3D printer parts to be lighter and ensure dimensional stability, as the fibers curtail the shrinking during the cooling process.

Printing Carbon Fiber

Before you start printing, you may need to set print settings, such as temperature, bed adhesion, extrusion rates, and print speed, similarly to the standard settings used for the base material fused to the fiber.

The carbon fiber material is likely to clog during extrusion due to the added fiber and may require special hardware, more so a hardened nozzle, to cope with the damage risk.

How Much Does a Carbon 3D Printer Cost?

The carbon fiber printers are generally not too expensive across the board. Their affordability is a great relief to 3D printers who use carbon fiber technology.

The following list shows an assortment of carbon fiber 3D printers indicating the 3D printing technology they use and their prices in American dollars.

Carbon Fiber Filament

Carbon fiber filament is a composite material formed by infusing tiny carbon fibers into a polymer base. It looks similar to metal-infused filaments, but it consists of fragments of fibers instead.

The polymer base can come from numerous popular 3D printing filament materials like ABS, PLA, Nylon, PETG, and other materials. The carbon fiber filaments contain short particles with a diameter of approximately 0.01 mm. It improves carbon fiber strength and enhances its brittleness.

This increased strength generated by this infusion of the tiny particles of the carbon fiber to the polymer base brings more excellent dimensional stability that helps avoid warping and shrinking during cooling.

Pros

Cons

Do I Need to Get a Carbon Fiber-specific Printer for Carbon Fiber Printing?

Carbon fiber filament 3D printing is a bit different from traditional 3D printing using base polymers. The carbon fiber filament is stiffer than ordinary filaments such as Nylon and has a matte surface texture.

Therefore, 3D printing may require a hardened nozzle that may not be readily available with regular 3D printers.

Continuous carbon fiber printing works by feeding a constant carbon fiber filament into the molten base polymer as it extrudes. Therefore, deploying a particular printer that can do it is the way to go.

The purpose remains to increase the part’s strength since the carbon fiber print directly reinforces it during the print process.

How Is Carbon Fiber Filament Made?

Carbon fiber filament consists of filaments made from different base polymer materials with tiny carbon fibers infused.

Carbon fibers are composed of carbon atoms bonded together in a crystalline formation. Layers of atoms are crumpled together, creating bonds that enjoy a very high tensile strength passing the same to the printed product.

These crystal alignments give the carbon fiber a great strength to volume ratio that allows carbon fiber to be made into numerous applications.

Conclusion

The whole concept of 3D print carbon fiber is demystified in this article. This article has served as an in-depth guide to the 3D carbon fiber technology with various concepts defined and explained.

Hopefully, you are now informed of the pros and cons of using carbon fiber filaments and the types of 3D printers that work well with them.

The affordability of carbon fiber printers is also an enticement to embrace the technology that provides more robust products than standard plastic filaments

Michael Brooks is the founder of M3DZone.com. He sees a very bright future for 3D printing that's why his mission is to try and make this easy for everyone. Discover your hidden talent and creativity. You can follow here: Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.