While we learn something here regularly, pretty much on the half hour, regarding new 3D printing processes that are usually also accompanied by mind-boggling innovation, I’m continually surprised at the education I’m also receiving in materials science. Most makers probably are as well, as the industry, marketplace, and offerings—on every level—have expanded in a way most probably never expected. We’ve reported on everything from eco-friendly ABS filaments to materials that allow us to 3D print with cork, molten glass, ceramic and porcelain, and so much more.
Here’s a new one for sure though: 3D printing with PVC. It was bound to happen eventually, but the Aussies are the first to take a stab at developing, testing, and proving a PVC based filament. If anyone was going to take on this challenge in materials development, Chemson Pacific of Sydney was the company with the expertise to do it, as a manufacturer of PVC stabilizers. And they believe 3D Vinyl to be completely unique, with a lot to offer the industry as it stands.
This new PVC material offers the thermoplastic qualities required for 3D printing, and Chemson sees it as having great potential to advance the industry further—as well as allowing everyone, from hobbyists to pros, to delve into more advanced manufacturing, moving move past previous limitations imposed by the traditional materials used in prototyping and low-volume production.
Some of the unique features of 3D Vinyl are:
- UV resistance
- Weatherproof qualities
- Solvent resistance
- “Group 1” Fire retardant (capable of AS3837 compliance)
- Low embodied energy content when compared to incumbent polymer-based filaments
- A sustainable footprint – requiring 50 percent fewer fossil fuel inputs, as 3D Vinyl uses abundant natural gas while some incumbents are derived from crude oil
- Improved rigidity
- Elimination of bottom layer warping and poor bed adhesion
- Excellent capability for generating support structures, which are easily removed
There’s a great deal of excitement surrounding this new material, and Chemson has already lined up partnerships with regional companies like PVC industry leader Welvic, along with CSIROD and ‘tertiary bodies’ that will be marketing 3D Vinyl not only in Australia, but also New Zealand and the ASEAN region.
- Low melt viscosity
- Excellent flow properties
- Heat stability
- Excellent layer adhesion
- Enhanced durability
The idea for beginning to delve into making such a filament came about as Dennis Planner, a chemical engineer who was originally hired as a lab QC technician at Chemson, approached co-worker Greg Harrison who knew little about 3D printing, but was very interested in Planner’s idea to make something no one else ever had. Harrison was just as curious as to why no one else was using the material with such new technology, and he and Planner began exploring.
“We set up a program to arrive at some starting formulations, but our initial experiments were not particularly encouraging. However, the further down the path we progressed, and with attendant due diligence, we were rewarded with invaluable experience, gained both from the ‘blue-sky’ R&D and the associated business case perspectives,” Harrison explains.
“The more we learned from Dennis about this new and evolving world of 3D printing, the greater was our sense that we were onto something significant, and that Dennis and his concept needed to become part of the ‘Chemson Pacific strategic outlook.’”
Creating 3D Vinyl meant two years in R&D, a great deal of market research, and consulting with industry experts such as:
- Dr. Leo Hyde of DuPont (Australia)
- Marc Jolivet of PMMCO
- AIO Robotics
Planner, who has since appropriately been named Global Product Manager for 3D Vinyl, will be presenting on the new filament—with Dr. J-Dieter Klamann, Technical Manager—at the Vinyl Council of Australia Annual Conference on May 19th. This will be the beginning of presentations they plan to give to both the PVC and 3D printing industries at various events and shows, along with other technology and manufacturing conferences.
“3D Vinyl is a definitive new 3D printing material that will bring a combination of physical properties not available with the current incumbent polymeric materials,” said Dennis Planner of Chemson Pacific. “3D Printing is currently one of the fastest growing, value-adding industries internationally and will be an important source of mentally-stimulating career paths and new business growth for the future, which I’m absolutely proud to be a part of.”
“3D Vinyl brings a new era for the PVC Industry and Advanced Manufacturing, here in Australia and worldwide.”
Chemson has also already announced a partnership with Functionalize, a company we follow continually regarding everything from their F-Electric 3D printing filament to cool projects like flashlight letterkits and touchscreen devices with 3D printed electrical circuits. Functionalize, a perfect match to collaborate with this materials company, will actually co-develop conductive, electrostatic dissipative and other specialized formulations of 3D Vinyl. They will also help the new material gain market reach further, with sights set on North America, Europe, and further.
“3D Vinyl provides a strong, weatherable and durable alternative for conventional ABS use cases, while simultaneously expanding the materials options for the vast market of PLA-only printers,” said Michael Toutonghi, CEO of Functionalize. “We’re excited to partner with Chemson Pacific on commercialisation and distribution of this important new material, and we look forward to functionalising it for a broad range of manufacturing and maker applications.
What makes 3D Vinyl even more exciting is that it’s also now been proven, put to the test by AIO Robotics, a company we’ve been following since the release of their flagship printer, the Zeus. Mark Jolivet saw the Zeus as a perfect testing medium for 3D Vinyl due to its robustness as a laboratory standard desktop-class test platform, and expected capability for extruding the new material. After Chemson chose PMMCO to do best testing for 3D Vinyl, Jolivet decided the Zeus was indeed the only machine for that particular duty—and he points out that this is a clear testament to the superior design of the all-in-one 3D printer.
“Marc Jolivet contacted us and asked to evaluate the Zeus for R&D related to new materials development, adding that he’d been frustrated with the lack of calibration precision and output repeatability of other 3D printer platforms. Additional machines were requested, as Marc found that his results with the Zeus were superior for the testing requirements of the new PVC filament,” said Roger Sommers, managing director for the APAC region at AIO Robotics. “Naturally, we were thrilled, and have since provided PMMCO with prototypes of the new heated-bed version due out soon.”
The Zeus offers an advanced auto-leveling system, a 3D object scanner, and even a general purpose PC. Developed by PhD robotics students at the University of Southern California, this 3D printer is not only comprehensive but complex in all that it offers with a built-in CPU and IP connectivity, allowing:easy search, download, and execution online, as well as onboard editing, duplication, and model manipulation. AIO is currently also about to release RobotLab, which will be first in a series of planned apps meant to accentuate operations with the Zeus, as well as serving as a teaching device regarding building and customizing. AIO will also be adding to their product lineup with new software, as well as a development kit for those building apps relevant to Zeu
“Chemson Pacific has pioneered 3D Vinyl PVC to suit the polymer-based 3D printing market segment, in order to introduce a more durable and sustainable alternative to the incumbent 3D-printing polymers now being actively commercialised,” says Harrison. “PVC has largely been overlooked as being suitable for 3D printing, and the successful performance of 3D Vinyl opens the way for PVC into the burgeoning world of advanced manufacture.”
With strong alliances and partnerships already in place, as well as the power of beta testing on the Zeus 3D printer behind them, 3D Vinyl PVC most likely will garner a great deal of attention from all sectors of the 3D printing industry seeking a high quality, versatile new material. Do you think PVC-based material will be a hit in the industry? Let’s talk about it further over in the 3D Vinyl PVC forum at 3DPB.com.