Stratasys Jumps Into Lucrative 3D Printing of Carbon Fiber

 

On August 20, 2018, Stratasys unveiled a new industrial printer specifically designed to 3D print carbon fiber parts.

The Fortus 380mc Carbon Fiber Edition was developed in response to the growing demand for carbon fiber parts across the industry. While metal 3D printing is ‘dramatically’ changing the industry, leading industry professionals have been impressed by the technological leaps and bounds that companies like Carbon, Markforged, and Stratasys have taken when it comes to printing high-precision, high-strength parts out of carbon fiber.

Until now, Stratasys has only offered its carbon-fiber-filled Nylon 12 material as an upgrade on the Fortus 450mc and 900cm. It required a custom printhead, and companies wound up dedicating too much time to carbon fiber parts on machines that cost between $200,000 - $350,000. The new 380mc costs about $70,000.

Stratasys Senior VP of Sales Pat Carey found himself in a new role as product manager, as he was the one in the company to identify the new potential market. Carey, and a team of about 15 engineers at Stratasys, designed and developed the 380mc in less than a year.

According to the company, the composite material market has seen 8% - 12% growth, year-over-year. The U.S. Department of Energy considers carbon-fiber reinforced polymers, like Nylon12, to be clean energy technology, because they help enable light-weighting. For example, for every 10% reduction in vehicle mass, the vehicle experiences a 6% - 8% increase in fuel economy.

The weight reduction is also why some professional racing teams, like Team Penske, have used carbon-fiber parts for both NASCAR and IndyCar series race cars. Penske uses carbon fiber 3D printing to manufacture both prototypes and end-use parts. In one case, the team used the technology to make a mirror housing for its NASCAR teams. The housing was stiff, even with thin walls, which could be attributed to the material’s signature. Nylon 12 consists of 35% chopped carbon fiber — other parts on the market only have 10% - 15%.

The company anticipates quick adoption from multiple industries, including automotive, medical, defense, and aerospace, among others.

The machine builds parts in 0.254 mm layers, and the build envelope tops out at 355 x 305 x 305 mm. The focus is on small but complex designs, given the fact that the machine prints with a water-soluble support system.

Stratasys is hitting the road with its new tech this fall. The new printer, as well as a Team Penske race car, will be on display at IMTS in Chicago.

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