While metal may be the fastest-growing sector in 3D printing right now, multiple companies are working to make sure that plastic doesn’t get left behind. The issue with plastic is that while it’s a good material for creating 3D printed prototypes, it’s largely not strong enough for end use parts – but that’s changing, thanks to new technology introduced by companies like Carbon and Roboze, just to name a couple.
Now BASF and Essentium are teaming up to develop new, more robust materials for good old-fashioned fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printing. Essentium, which was founded in 2013, pioneered what they call FlashFuse technology, an electric welding process that uses nanomaterial technology to create extremely strong interlayer adhesion in FFF/FDM 3D printed plastic parts. It’s a two-part technology that involves filament coated in energy-responsive carbon nanotubes, 3D printed through a conductive extruder to build up electricity during the printing process. The specialized technology can be applied to numerous open FFF/FDM 3D printer platforms.
BASF has been around for much longer than Essentium, but the chemical company has been pursuing 3D printing aggressively lately, most notably through a materials development partnership with HP through which it has been working toward advanced materials. BASF has a massive portfolio of materials, and will be combining their expertise with Essentium’s cutting-edge technology to develop a new range of polymer materials that overcome the normal interlayer weaknesses that most plastic 3D printed parts suffer from.
“Essentium is excited to partner with BASF to propel 3D printing into the realm of functional parts,” Essentium President and CTO Blake Teipel told 3DPrint.com. “In the last several years, the additive manufacturing community has witnessed BASF significantly invest in 3D printing. Today, we witness that commitment furthered through their collaboration with Essentium. By creating high tech 3D printing filaments with BASF resins inside, Essentium is confident that FDM 3D printing is solidifying its position as an ideal solution for industrial applications. We believe that through our partnership with BASF, the future is bright for all of FDM.”
If newer technologies like Carbon’s CLIP can produce such strong plastic parts at such fast speed, however, why continue to bother with FDM/FFF 3D printing at all? FDM still holds many advantages over other forms of 3D printing, say Essentium and BASF. It’s still the most flexible type of polymer-based 3D printing in terms of what kinds of materials can be used, and it allows for the printing of multiple materials in a single build. Also, filament-based 3D printing is unique in that filament can be filled with functional materials, such as carbon fiber or wood, for example. FDM isn’t going anywhere – but it can be significantly improved.
“Making the right partnerships are a key element in unlocking the true potential of additive manufacturing,” Kara Noack, Head of BASF’s 3D-Printing business in North America, told 3DPrint.com. “BASF’s collaboration with Essentium is truly pushing the innovation envelope by enabling the creation of functional parts using FFF technology. Combining both companies core strengths and technical expertise will help create the unexpected in 3D printing. This is a ‘win-win’ situation for industrial customers everywhere.”
To learn more about the collaboration and Essentium’s FlashFuse technology, check out the video below:
3DPrint.com will be catching up with Essentium during RAPID + TCT next week in Pittsburgh to learn more from the source about FlashFuse technology and the company’s plans for the future. Discuss in the BASF Essentium forum at 3DPB.com.