AM Investment Strategies
AMS Spring 2023

MakerBot Adds 3D Printing Filaments from LEHVOSS to METHOD 3D Printers

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I’m a huge LEHVOSS fan. The materials company is big enough to bring polymer resources and expertise to bear, yet nimble enough to deliver new products to a rapidly changing market. Now, the company has partnered with MakerBot to add three of its materials to the 3D printer maker’s stable, bringing the Stratasys subsidiary’s total filament count to 30.

The materials being made available for the MakerBot METHOD are 3F PAHT 9825 NT, 3F PAHT CF 9891 BK, and 3F PET CF 9780 BK. As for 3F PAHT 9825 NT, I am super in love with PAHT, or high temperature polyamide (nylon). With a continuous service temperature (CST) of 100°C, this is a strong workhorse of a material which has comparatively low moisture uptake (always the Achilles heel of these nylon/PA materials). Designed to be low warp, this could be an excellent all-round filament for a lot of users.

3F PAHT CF 9891 BK is a carbon fiber (CF)-filled variant of the first, with lower moisture uptake. It should also be resistant to corrosive chemicals and have a CST of 150°C. It could be used in under-the-hood automotive applications and should be stiffer than the first grade. 3F PET CF 9780 BK seems a bit weird to me, but is a CF-filled PET. With better chemical resistance than other PETs, the material has been designed to print well and survive at 120°C.

All in all, we’re seeing that newer, high-performance materials are being introduced as alternatives to polymers like ULTEM and PVDF for fused deposition modeling (FDM). This kind of competition will serve us all well. The materials will be available for the METHOD and METHOD X 3D printers.

The MakerBot METHOD 3D printer. Image courtesy of MakerBot.

The company points out that, through the use of its LABS extruder, the METHOD is already open to many more qualified materials. Thiago Medeiros Araujo, Global Product Manager LUVOCOM 3F at LEHVOSS stated:

“The MakerBot METHOD and METHOD X machines offer unique heated chamber capabilities which allow semi-crystalline materials to have their full properties out of the printer, avoiding the need of post-processes. In addition, its excellent precision and reproducibility in combination with our high-performance LUVOCOM 3F material range brings an exceptional engineering performance to the customers.”

Johan-Till Broer, VP of Product Development at MakerBot, contributed:

“We are always evaluating new materials to meet the needs of our customers and their applications. The ability to 3D print additional high-performance materials on the METHOD platform opens more opportunities for those who want to test out different materials with advanced mechanical and thermal properties. LEHVOSS Group is an expert in engineering materials and brings a range of new high-performance polymers to the METHOD platform, enabling our customers to explore new and more challenging applications.”

This development has a few interesting implications. First off, for how long are we going to continue hating MakerBot? I still feel betrayed by Bre and I’ll never forgive him. But does the Stratasys-owned firm now deserve another look? The METHOD X is a nice printer and now much more open than its predecessors. However, perhaps it needs to be completely open to succeed? These materials have been available for Ultimaker and other printers for a while now. Does that mean that faster acceptance of new materials is going to be a key competitive metric?

Also, here we see an exciting battleground begin to form. On the one hand, we have inexpensive printers that can do a lot of things that the $2,000 and $3,000 machines can. However, the more expensive systems give better results, are more reliable, and last longer. Then, we have $5,000 to $50,000, high-temperature systems from Roboze and Minifactory, which allow you to print extremely high-strength materials, such as PEEK, ULTEM and PEKK, which have great chemical resistance, and CST as well. In the middle are $2,000 to $6,000 systems like those from Ultimaker, RAISE3D, BCN3D and more. These are fully featured and reliable, but cannot print PEEK.

So, the coming year is going to be interesting because either high-performance polyamide and PPA materials will start to eat away at the high temperature printer market share or it won’t. The more high-performance PPA and PA materials there are, the fewer people will need high-temp machines. Meanwhile, for many people doing actual manufacturing, the PPA and PA materials will tempt them to at least go away from the low-end systems towards ones that can print at 250°C to 350°C and, thus, are able to use nylon and their brethren. Moves like these will really shake up our market and determine its future.

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