Unveiling the World of Kevlar 3D Printing: An In-depth Guide


Aramid fiber is a synthesized polyamide that is widely used in additive manufacturing and is characterized by its high strength. It was first developed in 1965 by chemist Stephanie Kwolek, a pioneer in polymer research who won several patents and awards during her career. The term Kevlar® was registered by the DuPont company, for which Kwolek works, and it began to be marketed in 1972. Thanks to its interesting mechanical properties, this synthetic plastic is one of the strongest on the market and is used in a wide variety of applications. Along with being compatible with many traditional manufacturing methods, Kevlar is used in 3D printing to create final parts. Find out more about this polyamide and its possibilities in the additive manufacturing industry with this comprehensive guide.

Material Characteristics

Kevlar is a type of plastic and is defined as a synthetic aromatic polyamide based on its scientific classification. Essentially, it is an artificial substance composed of interconnected molecules. Aramid fibers are a part of the group of plastics garnered through polymerization; that is to say, the assembly of large chains of molecules. In particular, Kevlar fibers are arranged in regular, closely interlaced parallel lines, making them exceptionally strong. There are two varieties of aramid fiber:

  • Kevlar 29 or the fiber as is after its production. It is mainly utilized to reinforce belts or fabrics.
  • Kevlar 49 is obtained when the fibers are mixed with a resin to form a composite material. These fibers require surface treatment to facilitate bonding with the resin.

Aramid fiber is characterized by high strength and resistance

Yes, everyone talks about the strength of aramid fiber, but what exactly is it? Kevlar has ten times the tensile strength of steel, thanks to the cross-linking of internal chains by hydrogen bonds. It also offers high ballistic resistance. The fibers are wound so tightly that it is almost impossible to separate them. So when a bullet or projectile strikes at high speed, the fibers trap, absorb and dissipate its energy. At the same time, the molecular chains are perfectly extended and aligned, providing a defensive barrier against cuts and punctures. Finally, the material is intrinsically resistant to heat and flame, making it an ideal choice for protection against thermal hazards up to 425°C.

Kevlar 3D Printing

As mentioned above, Kevlar is a plastic that is compatible with additive manufacturing. Thanks to the material’s versatility, its use in the 3D printing industry is expanding rapidly. Indeed, it is an ideal choice when it comes to adding strength and flexibility to final parts. In terms of quality, Kevlar’s long, regular molecular structure favors a very smooth finish and high resolution of the printed layers.

FDM 3D printing is notably the most prevalent technology for utilizing aramid fiber. Given its structure, Kevlar is more accessible in filament form. However, the proper machinery is needed to assure its accurate use. There are several factors to consider when printing components with Kevlar. Since Kevlar is a filament comprised of prolonged, unbroken molecules, there’s a higher chance of the material getting lodged in the nozzle. Therefore, precautions must be taken to confirm that the extruder is no less than 4 mm wide. Kevlar’s melting point is exceptionally high; consequently, the 3D printer must be able to achieve these elevated temperatures. Lastly, it’s crucial to monitor the first layer printed, as Kevlar doesn’t adhere easily. In this situation, applying glue can be immensely beneficial.

Despite being the most common, extrusion fabrication isn’t the sole technology compatible with Kevlar. Some entities and research initiatives are employing aramid fiber in resin 3D printing. Microscopic aramid fibers are blended with resin to reach the suitable viscosity. This results in parts that are more resistant to wear and tear.

Material Applications and Prices

Thanks to its high resistance to heat, tensile strength and toughness, kevlar is widely used in 3D printing for the most demanding applications. With characteristics similar to those of certain metals, but offering greater lightness, it is very useful in industries such as defense, automotive, consumer goods and aerospace. At the same time, its shock-absorbing and anti-abrasion qualities make aramid fiber a good choice for the manufacture of industrial machine parts that move against each other.

From an economic point of view, kevlar 3D printing is not inexpensive, especially for individuals. As mentioned, the use of aramid fiber in additive manufacturing requires a suitable machine capable of withstanding high temperatures. For this, it’s important to invest in high-quality equipment. At the same time, the material costs around $100 per 50-meter spool (5 times more than PLA). In many cases, when you want to benefit from the advantages of this material, it’s best to opt for a 3D printing service that manufactures parts on demand.

Do you use Kevlar 3D printing? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

Original source


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