As we have mentioned several times in past stories, the material science behind the resins, filaments, and powders used within the 3D printing process is almost as important to the space as the actual machines which do the printing. We are seeing significant research and development dollars earmarked by companies for the sole purpose of developing new versatile materials which can be used to fabricate objects via the various 3D printing methods out there.
When most people hear the phrase laser sintering, they likely envision a metal printer, melting powdered metal alloys to form objects. What they often fail to realize is that there are several printers on the market which use laser sintering to melt powdered polymers, instead of metals. These printers can print objects with incredibly fine resolutions, much better than the typical FDM printers on the market. Because the market for such powder is not booming yet, the material selection is a bit limited. However, as the market continues to expand, there will be an increase in demand for higher quality plastic powders for these machines.
One German company by the name of Diamond Plastics has just unveiled their latest laser sintering plastic powder, called Laser HDPE HX 17. This material is a type of high density thermoplastic made from petroleum. HDPE is typically known for its high strength to density ratio, and is used for products such as corrosion-resistant piping, and plastic bottles. Unlike that of some of the other materials on the market, HDPE HX 17 is resistant to many common solvents such as gasoline, alcohol, and acids.
The new powder has many benefits. One is that it can easily be reused after a print, and is 100% recyclable. An item printed with this powder will come out in a dark gray color, but can easily be painted with typical plastic paints. As for capabilities, it can be printed with a layer thickness of just 100 microns, and it comes out with a very smooth finish. This makes it perfect for the printing of master forms for vacuum castings. Here are some general properties of the new material:
- Medium particle size: 50 microns
- Maximum particle size: 80 microns.
- Recommended layer height: 100 microns
- Density: 0.97 g/cm3
- Melt Flow Index: 0.5 g/cm3
- Melting point: 130 degrees Celsius
Diamond Plastics is currently selling the powder in 20kg cartons, and can fulfill orders of up to 500 kg per month. They expect to double this, however, to 1000 KG per month by October, as they anticipate an increase in demand. Feel free to discuss this new polymer powder in the HDPE HX 17 forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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