Composite Vs. Metal: Which Is Right For Me?
How do you decide whether composite plastic or metal 3D printing is best for your application?
The answer is, it depends. An engineer must consider parameters including intended function, loading scenarios, work environment, production quantity, available manufacturing processes, and more. Below we explore the differences between these two approaches to manufacturing parts.
Composite printing solutions
The advantage of composites is that the engineer is not limited to a single set of material properties. Composites are comprised of two main elements: a plastic matrix and a reinforcement. As the printer user, you have three plastic options to choose from: nylon, Onyx, and Onyx FR, and four fibers – fiberglass, carbon fiber, kevlar, and high strength high-temperature fiberglass.
Reinforcing a plastic material with any fiber is a huge benefit. Composite materials enable you to develop parts. with a unique set of properties and characteristics: (icons placed below)
Continuous Fiber Fabrication (CFF) is a composite 3D printing process unique to Markforged printers that augment the FFF printing process. Fibers are not melted and extruded like plastic but instead are laid down intact through a secondary print nozzle. As this happens, a thin plastic coating around the fiber melts, adhering to the plastic matrix.
Markforged software is unique because it gives users the ability to define fiber patterns layer by layer, allowing you to define infill patterns, where and how much fiber is placed, and when to switch between plastic infill and fiber. These capabilities allow you to create design strong, stiff, lightweight parts that serve as a functional alternative to metal parts.
What are composites made of?
Composite 3D printing solutions for your application
Create stunning prototypes, tools, high performance end-use parts, and replacement parts.
Industrial grade parts in hours and improve manufacturing workflow
The biggest printer yet. Make big, strong, high temp parts — usable from factory floor to flight.
If your application requires parts with more strength, wear, heat, and surface resistance, Metal 3D printing can help. With its unique technology, you can make parts with complex curves, shapes, or cavities no other machine can fabricate. Compressing metal powder under heat and pressure into a mold limits the types of designs you can create. 3D printing the same metal part gives you much more freedom in the shapes you can design such as conformal cooling channels and complex shapes that would be hard to create with molds and cores.
The ability to print curved cavities allowed Stanley Black & Decker engineers to consolidate a four-part assembly into a single 3D printed part.
Reverse-engineering automotive parts using metal 3D printing technology.
Metal 3D-printed end effectors hold threaded couplings during their manufacturing process.