Materials are a critical component of the 3D printing industry; without them, well, we’d be nowhere! Some suppliers stand out as head and shoulders above the rest, with a strong history of development and a seriously promising future full of product releases set to optimize additive manufacturing. Among these companies is Michigan-based 3DXTECH, which has caught our eye here at 3DPrint.com for a few years now, bringing material after material to the table (er, printer). Featuring strong materials with incredible capabilities, 3DXTECH has had a lot going on; recent launches have included ULTEM™ PEI, Carbon Fiber PEEK, Carbon Fiber Nylon, Carbon Nanotube Polycarbonate, and Glass-Reinforced PETG. And more is still to come! The company tells us that for the next two months, they have launches planned for just about every two weeks.
We took the opportunity, in the midst of these busy launches, to find out more about 3DXTECH and their plans for the near future. Mark Haskins, Materials Manager at 3DXTECH, was kind enough to answer A Few Questions For us so we could learn more.
See what he has to say in the full interview below!
3DXTECH has a strong history in creating materials for 3D printing; what can you tell us about the history of development?
We have almost 25 years of experience in plastics, mostly on the supply-side of high-performance thermoplastics. Starting in 2014, we started to focus on 3D printing with the goal to create formulations that focus on functionality. The standard grades of materials typically used have inherent limitations based on their polymer type. We have worked challenging industries such as Auto, EE, Semi-con, and Oil/Gas and have sought to bring grades forward that we’ve used in these areas.
We think that our latest grade of carbon fiber filament is a great example of this. We already have the broadest offering of carbon fiber filaments in the industry and range from PLA, ABS, PETG, and PEEK. Our latest grade, 3DXMAX® CFR-NYLON, is a carbon fiber reinforced semi-aromatic nylon that we previously used in underhood applications in automotive. This type of nylon has superior thermal, mechanical, and chemical properties vs. standard aliphatic nylons, such as PA6, PA66, and PA12. We were able to make modifications to the formulation to create a compound that has ideal printing characteristics while maintaining the properties we were targeting.
All of our CF Grades: http://www.3dxtech.com/carbon-fiber-filament/
3DXMAX® CFR-NYLON: http://www.3dxtech.com/carbon-fiber-reinforced-nylon-3d-printing-filament/
Recent product launches include Ultem® PEI, Carbon Fiber PEEK, Carbon Fiber Nylon, Carbon Nanotube Polycarbonate, and Glass-Reinforced PETG; who are the targeted users/industries for these materials? What made these particular materials appeal to 3DXTECH for development as 3D printing materials?
We enjoy a very diverse customer base from the casual hobbyist to major players in Aerospace/Defense, Automotive, Electrical/Electronics, and Oil &Gas. Most of our grades are suitable for the standard desktop printer, whereas others require some modifications such as all-metal extruders for high-temp printing or temperature controlled enclosures.
Ultem® 9085 is a good example where we’ve had commercial success selling to users how have modified their desktop printers to reach higher printing temps (335 – 350°C) as well as large companies who use this material in their commercial printers.
How do 3DXTECH’s materials compare to any others on the market?
We have received very good feedback from our customers, many of whom tell us we are now their #1 supplier. We tend to focus on underserved or niche areas, but where we do compete head-to-head in a given segment, our customers have given us very good reviews on our quality and performance.
What is 3DXTECH’s approach to material development?
We do a fair amount of competitive analysis to find gaps in the market where we could offer a competitive advantage. Most of us have years of experience in other markets and we try to bring forward materials that we’ve used in the past and modify them for 3D printing.
We have excellent relationships with our resin company and compounding partners. They understand that we need to evaluate multiple iterations of a given formuation and then be able to quickly scale-up to commercial quantities. They understand that 3D printing volumes aren’t nearly as large as other markets, but we’ve chosen partners who work closely with us and help us quickly turn around specialty formulations.
Do you know of any examples of especially impressive case studies of objects created using these materials?
One of our first specialty materials was our 3DXNANO™ grades that utilize carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to impart ESD-level conductivity in the plastic. We had previously sold CNTs into Auto and Semi-con (Intel, WD, Seagate, Hitachi, etc.) and believed that this was an area where we could leverage our technical capabilities to create a novel offering. That bet paid off and now we’ve expanded our offering to ESD-safe ABS, PETG, and Polycarbonate (PC). We have major Electronics and Semi-conductor customers who use our products for conformal coating masks, fixtures, jigs, and end of arm tooling.
3DXNANO™ ESD Materials: http://www.3dxtech.com/carbon-nanotube-filament/
What are some of the technical specs for these materials?
Many of our grades have technical data sheets made using 3d printed test specimen. We just received our latest round of mechanical properties for our materials and plan to have them uploaded to the website by mid-April.
What else should we know about 3DXTECH/the materials?
We make our filaments here in our shop in Grand Rapids, MI. We are actively seeking distribution / reseller relationships globally.
With more to come in the near future from 3DXTECH, we’ll certainly be keeping our eyes open for what’s next from this company! What are your thoughts? Discuss in the 3DXTECH 3D Printing Materials forum over at 3DPB.com.