Address More Manufacturing Challenges with Composite and Metal 3D Printing

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.
In this paper, we’ll discuss several ways you can leverage these complementary technologies to
quickly improve your manufacturing processes.

Metal or Strong Composites?

Markforged composite printers uniquely embed continuous reinforcing fibers — carbon, fiberglass,
or Kevlar® — to print parts up to 23 times tougher than ABS, while Markforged metal printers fabricate
stainless steel parts. 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.

Optimize Your Parts for Specific Qualities

Metal and high-strength composite parts have varying material properties that lend themselves to
different applications.

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.


Tapping Fixtures

Use printed composite workholding to align and
support printed metal parts that require postprocessing
techniques like tapping.
This metal part sits in a conformal composite
fixture that orients the holes vertically for easy
tapping. The tough composite fixture easily
withstands the clamping forces applied by the
vise to secure the part.

Effectively Hold Uniquely Shaped Parts

If you can print a part in metal, you’ll be able to easily print its composite workholding. Printing composite
fixtures for metal 3D-printed parts solves the conformal workholding problem efficiently — whether for
tapping, post machining, or QA inspection.

Simplify Your Tooling Design Process

3D-printed workholding is faster and simpler to create than its machined counterpart.
1. First, CAD a fixture blank in your preferred program.
2. Import your part, orient it, and perform a boolean subtract operation.
3. The result will be a fixture that you can simply print, as opposed to the programming and machining
process of traditional soft jaws.


CNC Mill Soft Jaws

In this example, a machinist uses custom-printed
workholding to fixture a metal 3D-printed bearing
block that requires post-machining for precision.
The conformal composite soft jaws match
the complex contours of the metal part. The
composite jaws are tough and chemically
resistant, making them durable in the machine

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.


Custom Wrenches

A metal 3D-printed insert fitted within a
composite grip localizes hardness and wear
resistance to the contact area.
The composite grip keeps the tool lightweight
and ergonomic. Internal continuous fiberglass
reinforcement makes it durable and robust,
distributing the torsion loads applied from tool

Printing Custom, Multi-Material Tools Has Additional Benefits

1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Isolating the metal insert as a separate part allows you to rapidly iterate on its design.

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.


Line Interactions

Composite and metal 3D-printed parts fill
different roles on the factory floor and can
work together to support production. Here,
metal 3D-printed end effectors hold threaded
couplings during their manufacturing process.
Composite printed fixtures locate and align the
couplings on the line. This is just one example
of how two 3D printing technologies streamline
manufacturing scale-up.

Markforged Covers the Spectrum of Manufacturing Needs

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.

Only Markforged composite printers embed continuous
reinforcing fibers to print non-marring parts as strong as
aluminum and resistant to corrosive fluids like cutting oil.
Markforged’s free printing software provides one simple
interface to operate all its printers.


Schedule a quick consult to learn which
Markforged printers best address your
challenges. We’ll show you how quickly you
can determine the time and material cost of
printing your part.