Carbon fiber composites are becoming increasingly popular in a wide range of industries including space, aircraft, wind turbines, automotive, and more due to their high strength-to-weight ratio and durability. The evolution of composites material and manufacturing processes over the past 50 years has made them the preferred future material for manufacturing, with carbon fiber composites disrupting the manufacturing process and providing enhanced material properties that cannot be achieved with conventional materials/metals.
3D printing has allowed for the automation of the composite manufacturing process and reduced waste and energy consumption, making sustainable manufacturing processes more achievable. Carbon fiber 3D printing provides exceptional dimensional stability in strong, stiff parts with fine surface finish and a high heat deflection temperature, ideal for functional high-performance applications.
Additionally, the design freedom of carbon fiber allows for realizing complex geometries that are not cost-effective with traditional methods, enabling rapid iteration and more functional prototypes. The substantial negative carbon footprint of traditional manufacturing is compounded by the supply chain activities needed for production, but 3D printing allows for versatile point-of-need fabrication, eliminating the need for multiple carbon-intensive steps and creating operational efficiency.
Carbon fiber is cost-efficient, high strength, low weight, and an electrical conductor that makes it one of the most corrosive and heat-resistant materials available for commercial and industrial use. Its popularity across various industries is due to its high stiffness, low weight, high tensile strength, high chemical resistance, high-temperature tolerance, and low thermal expansion. Carbon fiber composites are set to further bring down their costs due to their rapidly growing applications and products.
Overall, while composites remain disruptive, additive manufacturing through 3D printing is allowing for the automation of the manufacturing process and design flexibility, providing sustainable and environment-friendly business practices, and extending or applying existing established composites manufacturing processes in ways that were previously impossible.