Introducing Our New Markforged Material: Onyx

So what is this crazy Onyx stuff we just released anyways? In this post will cover all the reasons why you should be excited about this new material. Onyx is our newest filament for Mark Two Enterprise 3D printers. It’s not a new fiber, its a new plastic that you can use as an alternative to our Tough Nylon material when 3D printing. We’ll be covering the details and specifics in future blog posts, but we really wanted to share some highlights that make this material particularly exciting.

What Even is it?

Onyx the mineral. The new Markforged filament is named after it.
‍Onyx, the mineral, not the filament. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

First, lets start with some etymology. The name Onyx comes from a mineral with the same name (No, it doesn’t come from the Pokemon, sorry guys. But the Pokemon is actually a reference to the mineral). While the filament Onyx does not contain any of the mineral Onyx, the mineral is known for its surface finish. The mineral is a solid black gemstone with a hardness of 7/10 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale – Diamond is a 10. Onyx (the mineral) also has indiscernible gemstone cleavage, which means that it cannot be easily split along defined plane surfaces. This is dependent upon a mineral’s crystal structure – if the structure is planar, then it is easier to break along planes because the atomic bond is weaker. In the case of onyx (the mineral), it is difficult to split along planes, has a microscopic crystal structure, and as a result has a smooth polish and strong properties. The mineral is one of the most popular gemstones because of its surface finish, and the word onyx itself goes back to the Greek word for nail or claw – it’s strong, sharp, and shiny.

The new Markforged material Onyx combines the tough engineering nylon with the rigidity of carbon fiber to make a great 3D printing material.
‍The chopped carbon fiber that Onyx, the filament, contains makes it a stiff, wear resistant, and ready for end use.

Even though our Onyx filament contains none of the mineral, you may notice that some of these properties are valued in 3D printing as well: hardness, nice surface finish, and good adhesion so parts don’t split along layer seams, and this is where Onyx (the filament) lives up to its name. Onyx (the filament) is not just another plastic material, it’s actually a fusion of engineering nylon and chopped carbon fiber. This chopped carbon fiber filament adds stiffness to your 3D printed parts, not only providing micro-carbon reinforcement to keep parts true to their dimensions, but also giving parts a smooth, matte black finish. So here are the big reasons why we are most excited about this new Markforged material:

Material Properties

Onyx is about 3.5 times stiffer than our standard nylon because of the micro-carbon reinforcement. Because it also contains nylon, the engineering toughness and wear resistance is comparable as well, and the material has a heat deflection temperature of 145C. So already, it’s a pretty great material, but the best part is, it doesn’t stop there! You can use it with our high-strength fibers – carbon fiber, Kevlar, fiberglass, or HSHT fiberglass, to even further strengthen your parts. With Onyx and composite fibers, the strength of your 3D printed parts can reach staggering levels, which is awesome. Check out the data sheet here!

The dimensional stability allows you to print large, complicated designs without fear of warping or drooping.
‍A lightweight 3D printed steering wheel, printed with Onyx.

Dimensional Stability

Apart from the material properties that we list on our data sheet, another neat thing about Onyx is its dimensional stability. What does this mean? It means your parts will be more accurate to your CAD model. This means minimized warping, larger overhangs, sharper edges. The micro-carbon reinforcement changes the way the material behaves once it comes out of the extruder and cools – there is less thermal deformation and faster heat dissipation within the material, so parts warp less on the build plate and can tolerate steeper overhang angles. As a result, the part comes out of the printer just how you designed it.

The Surface Finish

Let’s be honest…the surface finish of Onyx is just sexy. Sure, looks aren’t everything, so why is this important?

A close-up look at the surface finish of Onyx.
‍A zoomed-in look at some of our sample parts printing. Look at that finish!

Many Markforged users use our printer to make customer-facing parts. With our standard nylon, this can sometimes be an issue. The parts are strong and tough, but layers of fiber ingrained in semi-translucent nylon isn’t always the nicest thing to look at if you’re producing end-use parts. The 100 micron layer resolution that our printers provide combined with the Onyx matte black finish provides a smooth, good looking surface finish with layer seams that are near invisible. And this means…

No Post-Processing Necessary!

That’s right! Another amazing feature of Onyx. With the dimensional stability and the impeccable surface finish, you will rarely need to post-process your parts. Unlike other 3d printed parts, Onyx needs no dyeing to hide internal honeycombs, no chemical baths or sanding to get rid of those annoying 3D printed ridges, and no filler putties or materials to fill in gaps from warping. Onyx is ready to go. Right off the print bed.

An part printed in Onyx from Media Blackout, a custom media accessories company.
‍Onyx can be used for customer-facing applications, delivering a reliable part with a high-quality finish,

Applications

So what can you use Onyx for? The short answer is – anything, it’s 3D printing filament! But really, what makes Onyx special is that its surface finish and the strength it and the continuous fibers provide can allow you to make end-use parts that work well and look really good. This new Markforged filament can create parts that are usable and visible, transforming your high strength, industrial 3D printed parts from prototypes to final products.

A gripper from Dixon Valve. The Onyx material provides wear resistance and lightweight fingers for gripping parts.
Onyx being used for a robotic gripper. Onyx conserves weight on the arm and provides a wear resistant gripping solution.

Hope you have fun with it! You can try out the material by ordering an Onyx sample part here!

Alex Crease
June 23, 2016
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