A composite material is a material made from two or more different materials which, when combined results in a much stronger material, often with weight saving.
In 3D printing, it’s possible to print with two types of composite materials -chopped and continuous. The first is chopped fibre, which has small strands, (less than a millimeter in length) mixed into the plastic base material. The higher the percentage of chopped fibre inside the base material, the stronger (or stiffer) the material becomes.
The second is continuous fibre. This is where long strands of fibre like carbon fibre, fibreglass or Kevlar are mixed/ ironed in with a plastic filament, like PLA, ABS, Nylon, PETG and PEEK during the printing process. Parts 3D printed with continuous fibre are extremely lightweight, yet as strong as some metals.
In Additive Manufacturing, printing with composite materials is a young technology, but one with large potential. A carbon-fibre reinforced composite for example can be as strong as aluminum and printed at a fraction of the cost. Companies including NASA, Google and Ford are now creating parts 50x faster and up to 23x stronger than ABS, using Markforged’s continuous carbon fibre industrial printer platform.