Both high-strength composite 3D printing and metal 3D printing are valuable fabrication methods. Used separately, they address a broad spectrum of manufacturing use cases. Together, they enhance each other and provide clever solutions. There are several ways you can leverage these complementary technologies to quickly improve your manufacturing processes. By Markforged.
Metal Or Strong Composites?
Each printing technology leverages the advantages of additive manufacturing to create parts suited for different aspects of the manufacturing process. By understanding their strengths, you can maximize the utility of high-strength 3D printing in your operation.
Complex Metal Parts Create The Need For Printed Fixtures
While all parts require design for manufacturing, metal 3D printing allows you to print part geometries that are expensive or impossible to machine. Printed metal parts can be post processed with conventional metal fabrication processes like tapping, polishing, or machining. However, with the freedom to design intricate metal parts comes a problem—the more complex the part, the less likely standard workholding can hold it.
Composite 3D printers enable fabricators to manufacture high-strength conformal workholding without consuming machine bandwidth. With them, you can produce low-cost tooling and fixturing capable of handling high loads and machining fluids. For low-volume metal parts, printing both the metal part and the high-strength composite fixture will simplify your workholding design process while ensuring a perfect fit.
Print Metal Tool Inserts for Composite Tools
Custom tools are often prohibitively expensive to create. 3D printing makes these tools affordable. Tools are often made of multiple materials to maximize performance: many hammers, for example, have hard, heavy metal heads and light, shock-absorbent fiberglass handles. Access to both a metal and a composite printer provides the flexibility to leverage both materials’ strengths to create extremely functional tools, as illustrated in the example below.
Printing Custom, Multi-Material Tools Has Additional Benefits
- By printing one composite handle/mounting piece that can interface with a wide variety of metal inserts, you can consolidate an array of tools into a more compact unit.
- Swappable wear components also extend the lives of tools. When a handle or insert wears out, you can easily print a replacement instead of replacing the entire tool.
- Isolating the metal insert as a separate part allows you to rapidly iterate on its design. Custom tools are often prohibitively expensive to create. 3D printing makes these tools affordable. Tools are often made of multiple materials to maximize performance: many hammers, for example, have hard, heavy metal heads and light, shock-absorbent fiberglass handles.
Access to both a metal and a composite printer provides the flexibility to leverage both materials’ strengths to create extremely functional tools, as illustrated in the example below.
Use The Right Material For Tool Requirements
Metals and composites share one key material property: they’re both high-strength. Leveraging the secondary properties of each material yields strong tools that can be either hard and wear resistant or tough and non-marring. These two fabrication methods are similar in execution, but produce parts with a wide variety of material properties.
Having two different fabrication methods—one for 17-4 PH stainless steel, and one for industrial composites—enables you to 3D print parts for a wide range of requirements and use cases, from tooling and fixtures to low-volume end-use parts and functional prototypes.