Compressing the product development cycle is a primary goal of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies. Increasingly, designers who use AM processes are looking for ways to skip steps and build prototypes faster. Achieving this goal, however, will require new materials.
Israel-based Stratasys has unveiled two new printing materials that may fit the bill. The first, FDM Nylon 12CF, is a carbon fiber-filled thermoplastic created for higher strength and stiffness requirements than other plastics and, as a result, it’s strong enough to replace metal components in a range of applications where a combination of stiffness, strength and low weight are important to performance. These applications may include drill guides, end-of-arm tooling, brackets, jigs, fixtures and even metal forming tools: products that were infeasible for 3D printing in the past.
|FDM Nylon 12CF (left) is a strong, carbon-fiber reinforced thermoplastic, and Agilus30 (right) is a line of durable, flexible, and tear-resistant materials for PolyJet 3D printing.|
FDM Nylon 12CF overcomes some design restrictions usually encountered when prototyping using composites or metal. Designers are able to go directly from the design on the screen to a fully functional carbon-filled prototype in-house. Users can rapidly produce strong, light-weight and rigid components for functional prototyping, which greatly reduces new product time-to-market.
Nylon 12CF has been used to replace metal support fixtures where the stiffness/strength meets the requirement, but there is also a gain in ergonomics due to the lighter material, according to Stratasys FDM Product Manager, Chris Rollag. The stiffness-to-weight ratio is taking advantage of the weight savings of a polymer compared to the higher density of metal parts.
“Nylon 12 CF has also been used for prototyping parts that will eventually be made from metal, because the Nylon 12CF provides a functionality closer to that of the end-part that previously available plastic materials,” Rollag told Design News.
Nylon 12CF contains 35 percent chopped carbon fiber, which increases the tensile strength five times over that of unfilled Nylon 12 and twice the flexural strength of unfilled Nylon 12. Dissolvable support material is another feature of Nylon 12CF, eliminating the time-consuming process of manual support removal.
Beta customers (the material will be available this quarter) have reported that they are able to print using 12CF faster and make significant cuts to product development times, prototyping parts that formerly took two months in under two weeks. Designers can quickly create parts that are close to the strength of metal parts or glass-filled Nylon 6/6, and will be of particular value to design engineers making low-volume production parts with unique structural requirements, where high strength in one direction is required.
“FDM is printed layer over layer, the carbon fiber in the filament aligns with the XY layer as it is printed,” Rollag told Design News. “The strength in the Z or layer to layer bonding is limited to the strength of unfilled Nylon 12 as it does not get good cross layer of the carbon fibers. This is why the XY strength is much stronger than the strength in the Z build direction.”
The FDM Nylon 12CF material is designed