Anisoprint, a Skolkovo-based company that is emerging as the first direct competitor to Markforged’s continuous composite fiber 3D printing technology, is introducing a new composite basalt fiber material for use with its 3D printers. The new material is said to have better properties than metal or plastic: 15 times stronger than plastic, 5 times lighter than steel, 1.5 times stronger and lighter than aluminum. It is now available on the company’s website together with the Anisoprint Composer 3D Printer.
The company is reporting that by using anisoprinting technology with CBF, overall part costs can be cut by half if compared to parts produced using metal or high-performance plastics.
In a recent application case, a helicopter factory needed a mold for sheet metal forming. The die needed to be able to bear a 400 bar pressure. Plywood’s — the traditional material used in this case— has a short lifespan. A metal die would last longer but costs significantly more. The ideal option to extend the part’s lifespan and reduce costs was to print the die with continuous composite fiber.
Anisoprinting technology is based on a continuous composite fiber coextrusion process very similar to that used by Markforged. Coextrusion allows using different types of thermoplastic polymers as a matrix material to be reinforced with continuous composite fibers. The technology makes it possible to vary fiber direction, volume ratio, and material density. In the example above, 30% of composite infill is enough to resist the required 400 bar pressure. Thus less material is required, further decreasing costs. Users can also choose higher infill density or different plastics to satisfy the required loading conditions.
With the addition of this new material, Anisoprint now has two reinforcing materials: composite carbon fiber (CCF) and composite basalt fiber (CBF). During printing, the reinforcing fiber is combined with a plastic (PETG, ABS, PC, PLA or Nylon) to obtain strong and lightweight parts with the desired chemical or thermal resistance and surface quality properties.
Basalt also presents one more interesting feature: radio transparency. Parts made of composite basalt fiber do not significantly alter the amplitude and phase of radio-frequency electromagnetic waves transmitted through it. This makes it an ideal option for any non-conductive elements and insulators.