Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Farsoon, Ricoh & FABULOUS Demonstrate 3D Printed PA 11 for Water and Food Industry

ST Medical Devices

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Powder company FABULOUS has released a number of industry-specific materials for powder bed fusion. The newest include two PA 11 products, Bluecare and Active, for the food and water industry respectively. These powders have been dialed in on Farsoon systems and are being used by RICOH’s 3D printing service, as well as other customers.

The Bluecare material is actually blue, which helps get parts noticed should they fall into a food production line. It also has the relevant EU Food Contact Approvals. A Mr. Panchot, of IDPRINT 3D, is a user of Bluecare, 3D printing modular food conveyors with the material. About the product, he said, “BLUECARE is the ideal material for additive manufacturing of parts for food conveyors, avoiding the manufacture of a mold that is too expensive for the number of parts to be made.”

Some readers may not realize that there is a lot of customization going on in 3D printed parts for the food industry. A lot of lines are custom, have customized features, or need to be improved and modified. 3D printing is the perfect improvisational technology to do this with. This is a widely underrepresented and overlooked application that is really quite large.

Another application that is growing is in the water industry. RICOH is using FABULOUS’s Active material which has a “Accréditation de Conformité Sanitaire (ACS),” a drinkable water standard analogous to the US NSF-ANSI 61 certification. The company is using it to 3D print water pump strainers, another super overlooked application area that is fast expanding.

In addition to these powders, Fabulous can make you a master batch or a custom material. Master batches are often colored lots of material that are custom to a particular part or client. The company also has PA12, a cheaper PA12 GB, a PA11, a PA11 black, a higher performance PA11, a TPU, PP and PA6 MF.

We’re seeing a huge trend in industry-specific applications, machines and materials come to the market these last few years. Companies are increasingly trying to accelerate 3D printing adoption by developing and launching specific products that meet specific use cases. This is easier for customers and allows industry players to command more margins. On the back of that, there is another interesting development wrapped up in this announcement. In the regular polymer processing world, compounders are important players. They take large amounts of polymer from big firms and then incorporate additives to make them more suited for particular uses. So, a clear plastic is transformed through additives into one perfect for your sandwich containers.

In the material extrusion world, there are already a lot of compounders active either directly through offering filament or through working with filament companies. Compounders customize the versatile beast we know as plastic so that the end product is perfect for that one application or customer. In powder bed fusion, we have traditionally not had much compounding activity. Dresslers can grind and make powder for you or you could have gone to ALM to make custom batches. Maybe if you asked nicely, Lehman and Voss could do it for you. There are some other firms, too, but generally making powder bed fusion powder is hard. FABULOUS is essentially a compounder for the powder bed fusion market. And this is an excellent development because it means that powders can better conform to part needs in individual cases. Rather than making a one size fits all powder here custom materials can be made for your part or your application.

One of the best independent compounders and PA suppliers to me has always been Exceltec. This firm was led for 15 years by Olivier Coulet, who went on to head materials at Prodways before founding FABULOUS seven years ago. So, even though you’ve never heard of it, FABULOUS has a ton of experience. This is very advantageous for us all. I hope that FABULOUS grows and more companies join it to take us from standard powders to the best powders for each and every part.

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