BASF Commercializing Metal-Polymer 3D Printing Composite Material with iGo3D, MatterHackers, and Ultimaker

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BASF 3D Printing Solutions, a subsidiary of German chemical company BASF that’s focused entirely on 3D printing, has been working to build up its materials inventory over the past two years. In 2017, BASF formed a partnership with Essentium for the purposes of developing more robust FFF 3D printing materials. A new partnership focuses on the industrial Ultrafuse filament family, which includes extra-strong Ultrafuse Z for the desktop. Now, it’s introducing a new Ultrafuse material: Ultrafuse 316L metal-polymer composite.

“Ultrafuse 316L can, under certain conditions, be processed on any conventional, open-material FFF printer. Our goal was to develop a high-quality metal filament that makes the additive manufacturing of metal parts considerably easier, cheaper, faster, and accessible to everyone,” explained François Minec, Managing Director, BASF 3D Printing Solutions.

In the past, FFF was limited to just using thermoplastics. But BASF Ultrafuse 316L is a metal filament with polymer content, the latter of which acts as a binder during the printing process. The main polymer content, or primary binder, from the ‘green’ part is removed through catalytic debinding, which then results in the brown part of pure metal particles and the residual (secondary) binder. Industry-standard debinding and sintering processes take this secondary binder out of the brown part, while the metal particles combine. Post-sintering is when the material achieves its final hardness and strength properties – 316L stainless steel.

Ultrafuse 316L was specifically designed for safe, cost-effective printing of fully stainless steel objects on open FFF 3D printers for metal tooling, prototypes, and functional parts. Now, BASF has begun to commercialize the material with a trio of companies – professional desktop 3D printing solutions provider iGo3D, 3D printing retailer MatterHackers, and desktop 3D printing leader Ultimaker.

“In comparison to Metal Injection Molding (MIM), the Ultrafuse 316L offers an office-friendly solution, which opens new production opportunities. To reach the full potential of the metal filament and to ensure a solid start, it is necessary to understand that Ultrafuse 316L is not a conventional filament. Our goal is it to provide full service packages and support from the first request up to the finalized and sintered part, to implement metal 3D printing as a natural component in your manufacturing process,” said Athanassios Kotrotsios, the Managing Director of iGo3D.

The risk of defects is lower, and the success rate higher, when using Ultrafuse 316L due to the metal content being in the high 90% range, and an even distribution of metal in the binder matrix. In addition, the possible occupational and safety hazards that come with handling fine powders are significantly decreased with this material, because the metal particles are immobilized in the binder matrix.

“Ultrafuse 316L from BASF enables engineers and designers to produce true, pure, industrial grade metal parts easily and affordably using desktop 3D printers. This material is a significant technological advancement and truly a shift in how we describe what is possible with desktop 3D printers,” said Dave Gaylord, Head of Products for MatterHackers.

BASF’s Ultrafuse 316L – Metal filament for 3D printing stainless steel parts

The new Ultrafuse 316L metal composite filament is strong and flexible enough to be guided through complex material transport systems, and works with both Bowden and direct drive extruder types.

Paul Heiden, Senior Vice President Product Management for Ultimaker, said, “The Ultimaker S5 raises the bar for professional 3D printing by offering a hassle free 3D printing experience with industrial-grade materials. We are proud to announce that print profiles for Ultrafuse 316L will be added to the Ultimaker Marketplace. 3D printing professionals worldwide can then use FFF technology to produce functional metal parts at significantly reduced time and costs compared to traditional methods.”

BASF will provide 3D printer processing guidelines and parameter sets for Ultrafuse 316L, in addition to on-site support and consultancy to make sure that the material is performing up to snuff on your choice of FFF 3D printer. But if you’re interested in learning more about how to use the material now, you can check out this tutorial from MatterHackers about BASF’s new Ultrafuse 316L:

Metal polymer materials will allow a lot more people to 3D print stronger materials. However, it has to be noted that a completely new geometry will most probably not work the first time with this process. Shrinkage rates in parts vary across wall thicknesses, part sizes, and even geometries. During the sintering, process parts will tend to not shrink uniformly. The current limitation with Ultrafuse is therefore the same one that affects binder jetting with metals. For series of the same parts this is very interesting currently, and it should be a solvable challenge to make shrinkage more predictable. But, the sheer data involved to predictably predict part outcomes at many geometries and then have software predictably deform parts would be vast. So solvable, but still a difficult challenge to undertake for these partners and the industry as a whole.

Discuss this news and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Images: BASF]

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