Fontys University Students Experiment with Filament Extrusion and 3D Printing

Formnext Germany

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Several materials 3devo was actively extruding at formnext 2016 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

One of the most promising aspects of 3D printing is the fact that additive manufacturing adds material and only uses what is necessary through building structures up (albeit with any required supports), whereas through traditional subtractive methodologies, greater amounts of raw materials are required in order to cut away what is required. While the sheer amount of material usage is greatly reduced through additive techniques, a growing focus is being placed on the recycling of materials and the use of recycled materials, as 3D printing can help production to go green. For extrusion-based technologies like FFF 3D printing, the creation of filament in-house as well as on-site recycling offers great benefits — alongside of course a keen eye to materials quality.

In 2015, Netherlands-based 3devo introduced its NEXT filament extruder, allowing for the creation of 3D printing filament from much lower-cost pellets. In 2016, the company announced two new industrial-grade filament extruders, capable of working with advanced materials including PEEK. Last year, 3devo followed up with the introduction of its SHR3D IT machine incorporating a shredder and granulator to create new pellets from recycled materials. We’ve been following the team’s work, including speaking directly with them at trade shows to see the machines at work and check out the resulting pellets and filament — but now that the company’s technologies have actually been available on the market for more than a year, we can check in with a customer to learn more about regular use of 3devo’s offerings in a real-world environment.

A small-scale setup to extrude with NEXT (left) natural polymer-cellulose (right)

3devo published a new case study this week regarding the use of the NEXT filament extruder in the polymer studies department of Fontys University of Applied Sciences, where students now have the ability to work hands-on with different techniques in polymer extrusion.

“We try to incorporate upcoming technologies such as 3D printing in our curriculum, studying it theoretically, and researching its applications. Our students use the NEXT to experiment with filament extrusion, exploring its applications in 3D printing and elsewhere,” said Guido Smets, Project Leader and Researcher at Fontys.

Hands-on training by award winning professor Guido Smets

Fontys University offers bachelor’s-track coursework in polymer studies through its Eindhoven-based Natural Science wing, one of the only such programs offered in the world. The study of different material development and extrusion techniques is invaluable to these students, and the university had been working with large-scale extrusion machinery to support this work. The industrial equipment, however, did not meet all their needs due to a steep learning curve, little user flexibility, and lack of supported hands-on training, all of which made it less than ideal for use in an academic setting. One of the major benefits to the robust NEXT extrusion machine is its desktop footprint and accompanying lower price point. Students are now able to work with smaller amounts of materials — as little as a kilogram at a time — streamlining efforts and cutting research time and costs. 3devo notes that more than 20 students have, to date, completed polymer research projects using their machine, including work “studying the recyclability of PLA and PET, extruding custom materials for 3D printing nano tubes, and conducting tests on innovative polymer-cellulose composites.”

To hear more about the details behind this use case, I turned to 3devo’s Sales & Marketing Manager, Lisette van Gent, with a few questions about progress and what we can expect to see next.

How long has the NEXT filament extruder officially been available now? How has the market received it? 

“The extruder has been officially in USE since September 2016. One of the first users (and on paper our first client) has been Technical University DELFT (aerospace department – which was using the Advanced Level extruder for mixing PLA pallets with Piezoelectric powders – the feedback has been very positive so far. In the beginning the market was skeptical, but now being live more over 1,5 years we have grown a lot as a company and in our client base. Of course we are always very critical when it comes to keep on innovating, improving and servicing – which made us come this far already.”

The 3devo booth often seems crowded at shows as people realize what the equipment can do; how is this interest translating into sales? 

“True, it has been crazy busy and that is not only because our Dutch Stroopwafels. A lot of people step by and when we explain in all technical terms what it can do; people respond: ‘AH it is a filament maker’ (or for the SHR3D IT – ‘Ah, a recycler’ ). We noticed that sometimes we are too technical in our explanation and had to put more effort in 1 sale. Nowadays we simplified our banners, use our references, have more material testing experience, receive material testing feedback from our users and are more active in online YouTube videos for support which shows also the easy use of the Extruder.”

(I will note, as an aside, that the 3devo team has instilled in me a deep love for those stroopwafels; they’re pros at stocking their booths with technology and enough sustenance to make it through long show days.)

Now that the Fontys University team has been working with the NEXT for over a year, what lessons have they learned?

“Before Fontys had been relying on a Large-Scale machinery and therefore was more theoretical focused. They now have the option with the NEXT to make Extrusion technique accessible, user friendly and another plus; it is a cost-effective solution.”

What benefits does a desktop machine offer to teams such as this one from Fontys? 

“Besides less waste, less material use and faster result of new created 3D Filament; it gives Fontys also the opportunity to let their students work with the extrusion technique, a more practical approach instead of studying it mainly theoretically.”

How closely does 3devo work with customers? 

“We have several customers we work very closely with and this will also follow in our February User Case. We also try to contact our users and ask feedback regarding their experiences, and service is for us KEY.”

What does this case study mean for 3devo?

“The case study shows that we entered the market 1,5 year ago, we delivered what we promised and that we are here to stay; with many new developments coming up.”

What else should we know about this use case, or anything else to come soon from 3devo?

“We can already mention that there is another User Case coming up – and it has something to do with Space…”

Sustainable polymer-cellulose granulates and filament

The team at 3devo, armed with stroopwafels and innovative materials technology, is keeping busy as always, and we can expect to hear more from them throughout 2018. You can read the full Fontys University case study here for more information.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts below. 

[Images provided by 3devo]


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