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Composite Material Opens Possibilities for Industrial Strength, 3D Printed Parts

Micro-carbon reinforced nylon enables engineers to 3D print parts for rugged applications

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—A new micro-carbon reinforced nylon for 3D printing is reported to enable the production of rugged composite parts with excellent rigidity, dimensional stability, and environmental resistance. The material, Onyx nylon from 3D printer manufacturer Markforged, is available for use on Markforged’s Mark Two Enterprise 3D printing system and is said to achieve part strength comparable with metal.

Onyx's dispersed micro-fiber is fully compatible with Markforged's suite of continuous carbon, Kevlar, and glass fibers.

“After hundreds of broken beams and countless reformulations, we've created a new material that raises the standard for strength and accuracy,” remarked Markforged's chief scientist, Tony Gozdz, in a press release. “Onyx has more than three times the stiffness of ordinary nylons, and with a heat deflection temperature of 145ºC, Onyx is perfectly suited for vehicles, machinery, and automation equipment.”

Markforged is the designer and manufacturer of what is reported to be the world's only continuous carbon fiber 3D printer. Its Mark Two Enterprise Kit includes a wear-resistant print head that enables the 3D printing of advanced new materials, such as Onyx and high-strength, high-temperature fiberglass.

Carl Bass, chief executive of Autodesk, was “the first person to get his hands on Onyx,” according to Markforged, and immediately put it to use developing parts for his autonomous go-kart. "Now, all of a sudden, you can get great engineering materials, with the properties that you would want in finished products, and that's really going to be a game changer," said Bass in the release.

Rodney Everett, automation technician at Dixon Valve Company, a manufacturer of couplings and fittings, called the new material from Markforged “a critical component” of Dixon Valve’s design process.

“This material allows us to turn a prototype into a functional part in hours,” said Everett in the release. “While the majority of conventional polymers cannot survive as a production part in our manufacturing environment, this new material is thriving. Markforged has developed a material that takes additive manufacturing one step further.”

A key benefit of using Onyx is that it can cut post-processing out of the manufacturing process. Onyx parts can be used right off the build plate, according to Markforged, and display a remarkable surface quality with a “stunning matte finish,” the company reports.

One company, Media Blackout, is using Onyx to make 3D printed, custom finished parts. Media Blackout specializes in customized professional video equipment.

“It's a stiffer material, the edges are true,” said Alan Rencher of Media Blackout. “Parts look better and they fit together better. I think we're going to never look back with this new material. It’s helping us make parts that are direct sale to market.”

Jamison Go, of fighting robot Team SawBlaze, said that he and his team are impressed with the material. Team SawBlaze and Team Overhaul, each sporting Onyx and other Markforged reinforced parts in their massive combat robots, will be appearing in televised competition. Team SawBlaze uses Onyx parts in the dragon head portion of its robot.

“The dragon head functions as a protective cover and aesthetic,” said Go. “We expect this part to take a lot of abuse, which attests to the confidence we have in this material.”

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