Carbon Fiber Filament: Strength, Properties, and Tips for 3D Printing

Carbon fiber filaments is the stronger, sturdier, and more dimensionally stable versions of their base material. It is an exciting filament to work with as it is perfect for making parts for prototypes and other applications.

When it comes to 3D printing, the material occupying the largest market share are photopolymers as compared to composite materials such as carbon fiber filled 3D printing materials.

To be able to compete with the traditional materials, these composite materials are necessary for 3D printing to be a viable technology and replace more conventional processes. As for composites, carbon fiber materials are a leading contender in the industry.

With carbon fiber reinforced into base materials for 3D printing, strength is added while keeping the prints lightweight. It is a cost-effective substitute to more expensive materials such as titanium.

Carbon fiber is a favorite material for applications in the automotive as well as the aerospace industries. As of the moment, the methods for introducing carbon fiber in the 3D printing processes is still limited.

How Carbon Fiber Is Used In 3D Printing

At present, the easiest technique for using carbon fiber in 3D printing is through CFRP filament. With this material, carbon fiber and thermoplastic are combined, creating a composite filament. Extrusion is possible through FFF technologies or fused filament fabrication.

3D printers with this particular technology are not expensive. They are entry-level systems but they can be used for industrial-grade as well as professional applications. Both hobbyists and pros can certainly use this type of 3D printer for carbon fiber filament.

Carbon fiber filaments make use of small fibers infused into another 3D printing material. Doing so improves the properties of this filament. There are popular 3D printing filaments that have carbon fiber fill that you can purchase. Some of these filaments include Polycarbonate, ABS, Nylon, PETG, and PLA.

What Is Carbon Fiber Filament?

Carbon fiber makes the 3D printing material stronger and sturdier. The prints produced using this material are also lighter and are more stable in terms of its dimensions. The fibers aid in preventing any parts from shrinking as the print cools down.

The print settings for carbon fiber filaments such as extrusion rates, bed adhesion, speed, and printing temperature are similar to the base material’s normal settings. An example here is if you are using carbon fiber filaments that are PLA-based, you can try using the print settings for PLA.

However, you have to take note that because of the added fibers, this material may clog your extruder. You may need hardware that is specifically designed for carbon fiber filaments so that you can avoid any damage to your 3D printer.

Tips For 3D Printing Carbon Fiber Filaments

Here are some tips that can help you in reducing the risk of encountering common issues when it comes to 3D printing using carbon fiber filaments. Some of these issues can be your nozzle starting to wear down or clogging in your extruder.

Use a Nozzle Made of Hardened Steel

Carbon fiber filaments can be very abrasive. In most cases, the fibers are much harder compared to the nozzles in typical 3D printers which are usually made of brass. If you proceed to use the brass nozzle for printing carbon fiber filaments, it will just be a matter of time until your printer breaks down.

To address this issue, upgrade to a nozzle made of hardened steel. With this type of nozzle, you can be sure that it can endure the wear brought about by carbon fibers. A disadvantage of this nozzle though is that it is less conductive thermally compared to the brass nozzles.

It may be necessary to set the temperature for the extruder at 40°C higher than the usual setting. This will also aid in reducing the chances of the filament clogging it. You may also reduce your fan speed so that you can avoid any thermal issues with the hardened steel nozzle.

Adjusting the Retraction Settings to Prevent Clogs

Carbon fiber filaments contain little fibers that will not melt. Compared to the base material used for the filament, the chances of carbon fiber filaments clogging the nozzle is much higher. You can reduce your retraction distance to address this.

Apart from that, you can also disable the retractions altogether. This is because it can increase the possibility of fiber buildup inside your extruder assembly. Reducing or disabling the retraction settings can help you deal with the issue of clogging.

Reducing Print Speeds for a More Consistent Print

When you use a print speed that is slower, it can be advantageous for your carbon fiber filaments. It means less effort for your extruder. Apart from that, small clogs can be pushed through the steel nozzle when they start forming.

Try to reduce the print speed by around 25% to 50% and observe with setting works best for your 3D printing material. There may be several trials before you get the right setting but when you do, you will have better and more consistent prints.

Using a Guided Filament Path

Carbon fiber filaments have the tendency to be more brittle compared to its base material. If you force it into tighter corners or even rub on the printer frame’s sharp edges, it will most likely snap.

Ensure that the path of your filament from spool to nozzle will have gentle curves. There shouldn’t be any sharp turns or spaces where the carbon fiber filament can be dragged on the surface. You can use a PTFE guiding tube. Also, you make sure that the spool is in an area that will lessen any chances of breakage.

Additional Tips

You can use nozzles that have larger diameters such as 0.5mm or bigger. These will less likely have issues with clogging. Th carbon fiber filaments will be able to easily fit through this larger nozzle.

If you are having issues with the nozzle clogging immediately after only printing one to two layers, you may increase the first layer height. When the nozzle is close to the printing bed, then there will be an increase in the back-pressure as you print the layers causing fiber buildup which temporarily clogs the nozzle.

Pros
  • Greater stiffness and strength
  • Excellent dimensional stability
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Abrasive material which requires a steel nozzle
  • Oozes while printing
  • Filament is more brittle
  • Fibers can clog the nozzle

Best Carbon Fiber Filament Brands

There are a number of companies producing carbon fiber filaments. The carbon fiber reinforcement may vary. Here are three of the best brands that makes carbon fiber filaments for 3D printing.

1. ColorFabb Carbon Fiber Filament

ColorFabb is a company that is based in the Netherlands. They produce the XT-CF20 which is a 3D printing material that is PETG-based with 20% carbon fiber. This material is designed to be used for parts that need to be extra strong and stiff.

The prints have a high melt strength as well as excellent stability and dimensional accuracy. The XT-CF20 is a great choice for prints that need to be sturdy. It is perfect for drone parts as well as for aerospace and automotive prototypes.

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2. Ziro Carbon Fiber Filament

Ziro has the reputation of providing 3D printing filaments that are of great quality. Their filaments are environmentally-friendly. The standard of their production is guaranteed to be accurate.

When you purchase filaments from Ziro, they are placed in vacuum-sealed bags with desiccant. There is also a bone bag for the filaments that you have used. Carbon fiber filaments from Ziro are made of 70% PLA and 30% carbon fiber.

It is best to use a 4mm nozzle or larger for this filament. Also, use low print speed when printing with the Ziro carbon fiber filaments. As for print temperature, the recommended range is from 210°C to 230°C.

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3. Proto-pasta Carbon Fiber Filament

Proto-pasta is an American company that manufactures high-quality 3D printing filaments. They take pride in the fact that the design and manufacturing as well as the packaging and labor of their products are all done in the USA.

Carbon fiber filaments from Proto-pasta are stiffer compared to PLA. It has good dimensional stability, making sure that you get prints that are warp-free. Layer adhesion as well as easy removal of support is also guaranteed.

Check Price at Amazon: 


Specifications ColorFabb Ziro Proto-pasta
Star Rating 3 4.5 4
Print Temperature 240°C – 260°C 210°C – 230°C 190°C – 230°C
Price $59.99 $29.99 $29.99

Conclusion

Carbon fiber filaments are an exciting 3D printing material to work with. The prints produced will be stable, sturdy, stiff, and lightweight compared with their equivalent if the base materials were used solely.

Although carbon fiber filaments may be a challenge to use for 3D printing because it has the tendency to clog the nozzle, once you have addressed that issue by upgrading to a steel nozzle, you will surely enjoy printing with this material.

Other sources:
https://www.allthat3d.com/pla-vs-abs/
https://www.allthat3d.com/pett-filament/
https://www.allthat3d.com/pet-filament/
https://www.allthat3d.com/hips-filament/