Last year, Materialise (Nasdaq: MTLS) introduced its Bluesint PA 12 technology, which allows SLS 3D printing users to achieve a powder recycling rate of up to 100%—a major sustainability step. Korean 3D printer manufacturer Sindoh‘s S1000 system recently became the first commercially available 3D printer to support the waste-eliminating technology, but, now, Materialise is offering the tech as a new service to customers who are interested in lowering their carbon footprint.
“3D printing has established itself as a powerful and sustainable manufacturing solution for the production of smaller, customized parts by enabling localized production, but it is vital that our industry continues to invest in new ways to make the 3D printing process itself more sustainable. Through innovations like our Bluesint PA 12 service, Materialise empowers its customers to make a choice for sustainability,” Jurgen Laudus, the Vice President and General Manager of Materialise Manufacturing, stated in a press release.
With this new Bluesint PA 12 service, Materialise says you can print with up to 100% reused powder, which cuts back on material waste significantly. Originally, the service was only available for selected customers as a beta program. One of those customers was the Maggie Program, a Belgium-based non-profit that builds multifunctional shelters for communities. The organization participated in Bluesint PA 12 testing as a way to more sustainably produce their local shelters.
“We rely on the flexibility of 3D printing to address some of the manufacturing challenges we faced for the production of certain parts of our shelters. With Bluesint PA 12, Materialise now gives us the possibility to manufacture these parts in a more sustainable way with similar mechanical properties,” stated Benjamin Denef, the CEO and Founder of Maggie Program vzw and DMOA Architects. “We are always looking for new ways to reduce our environmental footprint and Bluesint PA 12 allows us to make a manufacturing choice not only based on technical specifications but also on the environmental impact.”
During the beta testing phase, the Maggie Program team 3D printed about 50 parts. Normally, this would release about 3.10 kg of CO2 emissions, but with Bluesint PA 12, the team reduced its CO2 emissions by 37 kg, for a total of 2.35 kg released—the same amount that two trees can absorb over twelve months.
“We needed a technology that would bring maximum capacity volume at high performance, and we soon realized that 3D printing could help us solve one of the most challenging joints of our Maggie Shelter. We are thrilled that Materialise can offer these components with the Bluesint PA 12 material today,” Denef said.
“Materialise’s concept to use material-effective technology to build parts enables us to easily and quickly assemble shelters for urgent needs in a sustainable way. It is important to us to partner with a company that is constantly working on new ways to reduce its carbon footprint, and that is why this alternative to regular processes aligns so well with our mission.”
Additionally, as you can see in the infographic above and as illustrated by the Maggie Program’s success, Materialise’s Bluesint PA 12 allows you to reduce CO2 emissions. Typically, more than 7 kg of CO2 are generated in producing one kg of standard PA 12 powder. But, by reducing the need to make more of the powder, Bluesint PA 12 makes it possible to decrease the CO2 emissions from powder production by roughly 30%. To put it another way, if half of all the SLS 3D printed PA 12 parts around the world were made with Bluesint PA 12 instead, CO2 emissions would go down by more than 2,800 tons a year!
According to Materialise, up to 70% of the powder in SLS 3D printing either becomes waste or is down-cycled, which means that the recycled material has lower quality and functionality than the original material. But with the Bluesint PA 12 powder, this waste material can actually help eliminate waste in 3D printing by being used to print new parts with equal function and quality. Also, parts printed out of Bluesint PA 12 have mechanical properties that are similar to conventionally manufactured PA 12 parts, but with a much lower environmental impact, since Materialise says that none of its rapid prototyping material is wasted.
Due to the iterative nature of 3D printing, AM technology is often used for less expensive prototypes, which is an application that Laudus believes suits the company’s new service quite well.
“We expect many of our customers will choose to use the Bluesint PA 12 service for functional prototype printing. Typically, 3D printed prototypes have short lifespans because they are only used in the validation phase, creating a need for a more sustainable solution in this part of the product development process,” he explained. “Bluesint PA 12 allows for sustainable development of prototypes with functional and mechanical properties comparable to the end part.”
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