The Anisoprint Composer A4 and A3, able to 3D print in continuous carbon fiber [Source: Anisoprint]
Anisoprint announced a move that could begin an interesting competition.
The Russian company is one of the very few that offer a 3D printer, the “Composer”, that can 3D print in continuous carbon fiber.
This is quite different from the much more common “carbon fiber filament”, which is in fact a normal material like nylon that happens to have been combined with a tub of tiny chopped carbon fibers. When extruded these carbon fiber segments add a bit to the strength of the part.
Carbon Fiber Filament
But that’s entirely different from continuous carbon fiber. “CCF” is literally a string of carbon fiber, where the carbon atoms are bonded together. This string is incredibly strong, with a tensile strength of over 400MPa.
The chopped carbon fibers do add some strength to filaments, however. colorFabb’s standard PLA has a tensile strength of 45MPa, while their carbon fiber-infused XT-CF20 has a tensile strength of 76. Neither material comes even close to actual continuous carbon fiber.
An analogy might be in order here. Consider two crews building roads with concrete. One crew lays down lengths of steel rebar to reinforce their concrete. The other crew sprinkles some nails into the concrete mix. Which do you think would be stronger?
That’s the difference between continuous carbon fiber and carbon fiber filament. CCF is far more useful to industry than carbon fiber filament.
Continuous Carbon Fiber 3D Printers
Today there seem to be only two well-known options for 3D printing in continuous carbon fiber: US-based Markforged and Anisoprint. Markforged is, by far, the larger of the two. They have received — so far — US$136.8M in investment through five funding rounds. That’s very significant and provides Markforged with a lot of juice to deploy their products (which, by the way, include not only their initial continuous carbon fiber product, but also a metal 3D printing system).
Meanwhile, we are not aware of any significant funding for Anisoprint.
Nevertheless, they are an option for CCF 3D printing. Until now they weren’t much of a concern for Markforged as their market was primarily eastern Europe.
Anisoprint UK Reseller
But now they’ve announced a partnership with UK-based iMakr, who have been selling various brands of professional 3D printers to industry for several years now. The deal basically opens up the sale of Anisoprint equipment to the UK.
But wait, doesn’t iMakr also operate in the US? They do, having a New York-based storefront through which they sell many of the same machines as their UK operation. It seems logical that iMakr might at some point, possibly soon, market Anisoprint products to North America.
Anisoprint says iMakr is their “first reseller in the UK”, so it seems clear they are looking for more resellers. As they grow, they will eventually bump into Markforged and then things could become interesting.
Markforged has been essentially alone in the CCF market for some time, and recently seems to have spent a lot of their focus on higher-value metal 3D printing systems. Could this be an opening for a competitor like Anisoprint?
We will be monitoring this closely.