Carbon Fiber With 3D Printing

[Thomas Sanladerer] wanted to make 3D prints using carbon fiber and was surprised that it was fairly inexpensive and worked well, although he mentions that the process is a bit intense. You can learn what he found out in the video below.

He used an advanced PLA that can endure more temperature than normal PLA. That’s important because the process uses heat and the carbon fiber resin will produce heat as it cures. The first step was to print a mold and, other than the material, that was pretty straightforward.

Wet sanding was quick because he simply wanted to remove any gross imperfections. The next step is to put a UV resin on the mold to prevent the carbon fiber resin from bonding to the plastic. The three layers of UV resin will stay on the mold.

The carbon fiber sheets are in different styles, as [Thomas] explains. Two mold-release compounds line the mold and you do need to wear a respirator and have adequate ventilation when working with all these resins and carbon fibers.

With the mold ready, you put down the actual carbon fiber resin and the sheets of material. Once you have all the layers of fiber and resin, you place a sheet of special paper on the back and wrap the whole thing in a cloth. The final step is to put the whole affair in a vacuum bag and then gently heat it.

The result was good, although the first attempt had some imperfections. The second test had problems releasing from the mold. But the third time was the charm. It looks like a lot of work and, of course, the 3D printer is really only making the mold — this same process would be true of any carbon fiber process where you had a mold or something to wrap.

Carbon fiber isn’t always made with a mold, of course. It can even take electroplating.

31 thoughts on “Carbon Fiber With 3D Printing

        1. You can get hardened steel nozzles and extruder gears to print short stand milled carbon and glass filled filament, but the fibres are usually sub millimetre length.
          The markforged version uses a different approach with one “extruder” tacking a length of continous tow fibre into place and cutting it off at the end, then another more conventional hot end makes a pass over the past to splurge molten nylon into and over the carbon.

      1. You can get overlap just fine, what you actually want is longer fibers in a mesh and that is a different proposition. Do note though, printed parts are stronger and have interesting characteristics, so it’s not a loss depending on your user case.

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    2. you can get filaments with carbon fiber in them and most printers could use that (would need a steel or better nozzle and maybe upgraded hotend). The problem though is that the fibers are extremely short so you dont get anything close to the strength of criss-crossing long fibers from a true carbon fiber layup. So basically, you get none of the value.

          1. These curved shape reminds me of the japanese hand forged hair dressing scissors. And there was something in engineering class but i couldn’t remmber. Is a curved cutting a true straight cut?

  1. Is it possible to precut the carbon fiber to perfect fit size (with cut outs) in a plotter? So i didn’t need to trimm it afterwarts? All this trimming with a dremel is a little bit messi and the dust isn’t healthy.

    1. Companies making bike frames definitely do this: laser cut all the pieces to size with specific fiber orientation and have a system for aligning all the pieces. That isn’t a great match for his “you can do this at home cheaply” message, though.

    2. The problem with carbon fiber and fiber glass is that it unravels (very easily) at the edges. So if you don’t leave some excess, then you need a way to prevent it from unraveling. Also, when molding it, it stretches out in various ways, not always so predictably. So it won’t always result in the same shape when flat, unless you have a very precise and repeatable process for molding it.

  2. Everytime i see carbon fiber it remind me on a article on a lockpicking site, one of the first articles that a read here on hack a day. There was issues with insurances because the new carbon fiber lockpicks are stiff but so soft that they leave no marks in the locks. So if thiefs leaves doors open it always look so if the owner did it.

    Big thanks for past article writers here on hackaday!!!

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