From cars, yachts, and drones to wheelchairs, bikes, and even small, lifelike heads, 3D printing has been taking the world of competitive racing by storm over the last few years. Ten Kate Racing, the Official Honda World Superbike Team and multiple champion in the World Supersport and Superbike Championship, was looking for more flexibility than milling could offer when it came to producing parts for its racing bikes, and the team’s R&D engineers asked Dutch filament manufacturer Innofil3D, recently acquired by global chemical company BASF, for help.

World Superbike teams work a little differently than Formula 1 race cars – instead of developing brand new superbikes, standard road motorcycles are actually transformed into full race spec race bikes. Before now, it took weeks to design and mill parts for the superbikes, but the Ten Kate engineers were familiar with 3D printing technology, as they had experience outsourcing 3D printed prototypes, and at the end of last season, they decided to look into 3D printing parts in-house to speed up development and production.

The Ten Kate team knew if they were serious about 3D printing, materials was the first place to start…which is why they contacted Innofil3D.

“Material performance is extremely important for us, especially when using 3D-printed parts on our racing bikes,” explained Bastiaan Huisjes, an R&D engineer at Ten Kate Racing. “We have to take into account rapid changing conditions in temperature, mechanical loads and vibrations. So materials had to be the starting point for us.”

It was a lucky break that, at the very same time Ten Kate was considering 3D printing, Innofil3D was working with Polyscope Polymers, which produces Styrene Maleic Anhydride (SMA), to develop an engineering-grade ABS 3D printing filament. Both companies wanted a material that would enable hassle-free printing of functional parts by solving issues like adhesion to water soluble support, warping, and difficult processability. Thermoplastic ABS material is fairly versatile and can be used in many applications, but it also has problems with adhesion to support material and print beds.

Ten Kate wanted a material that would meet its strict requirements for 3D printing functional parts, so Innofil3D and Polyscope put their heads together to develop a brand new material: ABS Fusion⁺, made with Polyscope XILOY 3D, which will be released at next week’s TCT Show in Birmingham.

“Our extensive knowledge of the properties and benefits of SMA has enabled us to develop an SMA/ABS based compound for the technical FDM market – XILOY™ 3D – providing the same benefits, such as adhesion to glass bed and support material,” said Paul van den Heuvel, Market & Application Development Manager at Polyscope.

Most ABS filaments are general purpose injection molding grades – not great for users wanting to harness the full potential of 3D printing. During this year’s superbike pre-season and season, Innofil3D, Polyscope, and Ten Kate Racing all worked together to improve the material’s features, focusing on high heat resistance, improving usability with low warping, and that pesky support and bed adhesion problem.

“For me it is important that a material like ABS FUSION⁺ is easy to process,” said Huisjes. “We are a racing team and I am not a full time 3D-printing operator.”

So that Ten Kate would be able to 3D print the superbike component parts they needed, as well as test the performance of the innovative new material, Innofil3D offered the team one of its own 3D printers to use. ABS FUSION⁺ offers increased flexibility in designing parts, which is exactly what Ten Kate was looking for.

“The spacer for the dashboard is a good example. Designing and milling of this part would have taken us at least 3 weeks. Now the whole process is reduced to just one week,” said Huisjes. “A material like ABS FUSION⁺ enables us to use more and more 3D-printed parts on our racing bikes and it gives the flexibility and performance/quality we need.”

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[Source/Images: Innofil3D]
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