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Combining Metal & Composite in the same 3D Print

Updated: Jan 12, 2022

With the wide range of available metals including Stainless Steel 17-4PH, Inconel 625, A2 / D2 / H13 Tool Steels, 3D printing in metal with the Markforged Metal X has opened up a number of new opportunities for our clients including:

  • Shortening product design cycles through prototyping in metals

  • Light-weighting metal parts for end use in products

  • Producing more intricate designs in a single part, over assemblies, for better performance and functionality

  • Reducing reliance on third party suppliers, especially for legacy parts

  • Reducing downtime through 3D printing metal components in maintenance and repair operations

What if you can benefit even further from combining metal & composite for additional cost and time savings?

The CREAT3D Team have been printing in metal for many months on our in-house Metal X, and we've been refining prints and combining AM technologies of composite and metal 3D printing. Here's a little insight into what we have discovered...

Use composite where metal isn't necessary

Use a combination of composite and metal in the same part. Why? It reduces costs and reduces print time.

Take our drum wrench for opening the Opteon for use in the Markforged Metal X Wash. Traditionally, this is produced via subtractive manufacturing, out of metal.

Thought Process 1: We can 3D print it!

Answer 1: Yes we can

Thought Process 2: Does it need to be fully in metal?

Answer 2: Possibly not. There's very little stresses going through the wrench, especially the handle as it's manually operated. But the connector needs to be accurate enough to fit the opening. The connector needs to be repeatably functional, and not wear easily.

Thought Process 3: Can we print some in metal and some in composite?

Answer 3: Yes. Let's print the connector in metal, but the handle can be in Onyx (Nylon with micro carbon-fibres). If we need additional strength we can reinforce the handle with continuous fibreglass or carbon fibre. So that's what we did.

The print stats...

Printing in the combination of Onyx with Fibreglass for the handle, and Stainless Steel 17-4PH for the connector saved 46.7% in costs and 47.8% in time, versus printing the whole wrench in metal. And it doesn't look out of place on our tool board!

In addition to the savings, further benefits of using the combined technologies, is that it also frees up operator time to work on other projects, and there is less wastage of materials.


Use both AM technologies to embed metal components in composite parts

Embed metal components in a composite part during the 3D print process.

Instead of fitting two or more components together after the print process, why not embed items during the print process. This is a key feature on the Markforged Composite printers that we find is under-used.

Here's our hybrid spanner. Having printed the tools in H13 Tool Steel on the Metal X, we then set about printing the handle in Onyx on the X7 (Industrial Composite 3D printer). When processing the file in the Eiger print software, we added in pause layers to allow us to embed the components at the correct times.

Tip > make sure you pause at the layer equal or just above where the component will be - otherwise you won't get a good seal!

Once the pause arrived, we removed the build plate from the machine, inserted our components, returned the bed and restarted the print. We completed this twice for 2 different inserts.

The result - a fully enclosed hybrid spanner, with the handle in composite and the metal end tools embedded within the handle.

Tip > We could have also added RFID tags if this was going into a production line environment, and bespoke to a particular operator.

These are just some of the benefits and applications of combining metal and composite components into a single part.

Challenge us on how the Markforged range of metal and composite 3D printers can benefit your business processes. Request a free test print.


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