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Continuous Fiber 3D Printing

"Desktop Metal has introduced Fiber, the first desktop 3D printer to fabricate high resolution parts with industrial grade continuous fiber composite materials used in automated fiber placement (AFP) processes," said a company spokesperson. "Based on a new process called micro automated fiber replacement (µAFP), users can now print parts with a high level of strength and stiffness, and in a broad range of materials, that traditionally required million-dollar AFP systems."

"This platform produces parts using materials that are two times stronger than steel at one-fifth the weight," said the spokesperson. "Fiber printers feature one of the largest build envelopes of any continuous fiber desktop printer and are designed to be arranged in print farm configurations of six or 10 printers."

"For the first time, Fiber printers combine the material properties of high performance AFP continuous fiber materials with the affordability and speed of a desktop 3D printer," said Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal.

According to the company, Fiber is the first continuous fiber desktop printer to miniaturize AFP technology, typically found in the highest end carbon fiber production processes, and combine it with Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), the most widely-used 3D printing technology. The printer uses a robotic tool changer architecture for future expandability and is capable of storing up to four tools, including additional FFF heads for different materials or future enhancements such as automated in-process inspection.

The Fiber print platform is available in two models through a subscription service:

  • Fiber HT is designed to produce parts with continuous composites having <1% porosity and up to 60% continuous fiber loading with advanced matrix, including PEEK and PEKK. It can make flame retardant parts to withstand high temperatures up to 250 °C, in addition to ESD compliant parts.
  • Fiber LT produces high strength, ESD compliant, non-marring parts using continuous fiber with <5% porosity with PA6 thermoplastics.

"Fiber printers are available in a hardware-as-a-service subscription plan that allows customers to have the latest technology at an affordable price, without risking technology obsolescence. Minimum subscription term is three years and includes comprehensive support," said the spokesperson.

Featuring large build volumes (310 mm x 240 mm x 270 mm), both Fiber HT and Fiber LT are designed to combine the benefits of 3D printing with continuous fiber materials that are qualified for high-performance applications:

  • Parts printed on Fiber feature targeted continuous fiber reinforcement along critical load paths to build a fully dense fiber core with low porosity (<1% porosity with PEEK and PEKK, and less than 5% with PA6). "Featuring 12k tows, up to 60% percent fiber volume fraction and multi-directional reinforcement with user-defined tow placement, the resulting parts are up to 60x stiffer and 75x stronger than ABS plastic parts," said the spokesperson.
  • Fiber offers engineers a large selection of composite materials for a desktop printer, starting with a chopped carbon fiber filled Nylon (PA6) that is ESD-compliant, and a chopped fiberglass filled Nylon (PA6). "The materials library also includes chopped carbon fiber filled PEEK and PEKK filaments that provide excellent mechanical properties and chemical resistance, and yield parts that can withstand continuous operation in high temperatures relative to other thermoplastics," said the spokesperson. Each of these materials can be reinforced with continuous carbon or glass fiber. This wide portfolio of materials is designed for versatility to support a broad set of industrial applications.

"Composite parts can be indispensable for manufacturers during the early design stages of prototyping as well as for critical end-use parts that require high stiffness and fast lead times over machined counterparts," said the spokesperson.

Key applications include:

  • Jigs and fixtures, including robotic end effectors, CNC soft jaws, laser etching fixtures for medical tools, ESD and fixtures for manufacturing
  • End-use parts, including automotive, electronics, consumer goods such as racing bicycles, marine, aviation and machine design
  • Components where lightweighting is critical for performance, such as wheelchairs and sports racing equipment.

"Despite all the advantages, polymer-based AM has been lacking in the strength needed for high performance applications, specifically a technology that bridges the gap between existing AM technology and automated fiber placement of high-performance composites as used in industry," said David Hauber, Engineering Manager of Trelleborg Sealing Solutions Albany, Inc. "After more than three decades of development, AM has finally reached a tipping point. With Desktop Metal's new AM technology, engineers will be able to print industrial quality, continuous fiber reinforced composite structures. This breakthrough technology now offers the ability to print continuous fiber reinforcement with high fiber volumes and high Z-axis strength. These benefits are combined with high resolution printing and beautiful surface finishes that give users flexibility in how they can cost-effectively design and manufacture high performance composite structures."

"Weight is everything in racing," said Will Turner, President of Turner Motorsport. "Being able to replace critical metal components with 3D printed continuous fiber means we can retain the strength of metal while lowering the overall weight of the car."

For more information contact:

Desktop Metal

63 Third Avenue

Burlington, MA 01803


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