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AMS Spring 2023

3D Systems, Markforged, & M. Holland Expanding 3D Printing Materials Portfolios

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The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2022 opens in Chicago today. This will be the event’s first time in-person since 2018, as it only occurs every two years and was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. IMTS is the largest and longest-running industry trade show in the Western Hemisphere, and while not solely focused on additive manufacturing, it’s still a big deal in our industry. Today, as the exhibit hall doors prepare to open, 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) is announcing two new production-grade materials for industrial applications: DuraForm ® PAx Black and Figure 4 ® Tough Clear.

In addition to spinning off a bioprinting business and buying dp Polar, 3D Systems has recently been working on materials development. These new expansions to its materials portfolio were created for long-term stability and mechanical performance in any environment, from aerospace and defense to consumer goods and transportation. While they won’t be available until Q4 2022, IMTS attendees can get a look at them this week.

DuraForm PAx Black

This armrest was produced on 3D Systems’ SLS 380 3D printer using the new DuraForm PAx Black material. This SLS powder prints at low temperatures for faster build cycles and with vapor honing is nearly indistinguishable from injection molded plastics.

The new DuraForm PAx Black is part of 3D Systems’ new open material portfolio for SLS 3D printing, and is said to possess material properties that rival those of injection molded plastics, just like its DuraForm PAx Natural. Designed for use with any commercially available SLS sytem, this recyclable nylon copolymer can be easily integrated into existing workflows, and features high impact resistance with high elongation at break in any direction.

The material works for low temperature (120°C) printing, and features long-term stability ratings of over five years indoor, for color and mechanical properties. A 30% refresh rate is recommended, which helps keep production costs down and reduces waste. DuraForm PAx Black can be used to manufacture tough, lightweight production-grade parts for applications like liquid reservoirs, orthotics, splints and braces, tooling handles, living hinges, ducting for rugged environments, and enclosures that need high toughness and impact. When these parts are post-processed using vapor honing, the elongation at yield capability increases beyond what other nylon materials can offer, and results in parts with a smooth, shiny surface finish.

Figure 4 Tough Clear

Parts produced using Figure 4 Tough Clear are built to last and avoid yellowing or discoloration. Engineered for long-term stability up to eight years indoors, parts are beautiful and functional with near optical clarity achieved with post-processing.

The first production-grade clear material in 3D Systems’ Figure 4 platform, Figure 4 Tough Clear was designed for industrial applications that need long-term use parts and functional prototypes. Post-processing improves the already great clarity of parts made with this material, which means they can be used in applications like fluid and gas flow so the inner workings of assemblies can be observed; additionally, this allows for light transmission and reflection to be improved for lenses, lighting covers, and light guides. Figure 4 Tough Clear also features performance traits such as tensile strength, impact strength, and elongation properties, which remain stable up to eight years.

The material has been tested to eight years of indoor, and 1.5 years, outdoor mechanical performance per ASTM G154 and D4329 methods, which means that the resulting 3D printed parts will stay stable and function in real-world conditions. That’s why Figure 4 Tough Clear is also perfect for multiple high-volume small part applications, like snap-fits and fasteners, load-bearing handles, cranks, knobs, and levers, structural brackets, and consumer goods packaging.

To see both DuraForm PAx Black and Figure 4 Tough Clear, visit 3D Systems in booth #433104 at IMTS 2022.

Markforged Smooth TPU 95A

Another IMTS exhibitor launching a new material today is Markforged (NYSE: MKFG), creator of The Digital Forge metal and carbon fiber AM platform. The company, which just entered the metal binder jet market with the acquisition of Digital Metal, has added Smooth TPU 95A to its materials portfolio for the production of flexible, high-quality parts. With this rubber-like material, manufacturers enjoy more versatility to print flexible, customized, production-quality parts—in low to medium volumes—at the point of need. Applications that will benefit from Smooth TPU 95A include production line tooling, aftermarket spares and replacement parts, specialty production, and design validation, in industries such as consumer products, electronics, aerospace, automotive, energy, industrial equipment, and more.

It’s not easy to print with flexible materials, as they can often cause printers to clog and jam. Markforged says that its Digital Forge platform was designed to get around these issues, and deliver a more consistent TPU printing experience, with, as it describes, the “synchronous workings of our hardware, software and materials.” Additionally, the company says its new Smooth TPU 95A allows users to print flexible parts with high geometric fidelity, which is necessary for fine details like cutouts for complex bushings and ridges on high-precision drive belts.

One Markforged customer is already using the new Smooth TPU 95A. The Assistive Technology Team at the Central Virginia VA Health Care System says that this material is helping them come up with new ways to improve the lives of veterans.

“We have a long history of relying on Markforged technology in our clinic settings. Between the reliability of the printers and the easy to use Eiger interface, we are able to collaborate with medical professionals and veterans to move through design iterations quickly and deliver a high-quality solution faster that truly helps our patients. With Smooth TPU 95A, we are able to create parts in a material that is a better fit for our patients and their needs, allowing us to do things we couldn’t do before,” said Brian Burkhardt, Central Virginia VA Health Care System Clinical Rehabilitation Engineer. ” Whether we are working on a prosthetic or stylus holder, the flexible nature of this new material gives us more capabilities to provide an elegant solution for our patients, making their lives easier.”

Previously, the team was having trouble printing high-quality models with other technology, but printing Smooth TPU 95A on Markforged systems has turned things around. The stylus holder was designed as a wrist strap with a slot to help with limited hand dexterity, and by printing it with Smooth TPU 95A, the project moved forward efficiently, starting with design validation and quickly moving to custom production, so that each individual gets their own tailored design.

Smooth TPU 95A, which is available today, is compatible with the Mark Two (Gen 2) and Onyx Pro (Gen 2) printers, and will also be available on the X7 (Gen 2) printers with the latest A3648 extruder in Q4 of this year. If you’re interested in learning more about how industrial manufacturers are using the material, you can register for the company’s October 4th webinar, or visit Markforged at booth #432305 at IMTS 2022.

M. Holland Expands Access to Braskem Filaments

Braskem FL300PE

M. Holland Company, which distributes thermoplastic resins and ancillary materials, won’t be at IMTS this week, but is announcing that its clients can enjoy expanded access to 3D printing filaments from global chemical and petrochemical company Braskem. The PE and glass fiber-reinforced PP filaments offer reduced shrinkage and warpage, high printability, and good interlayer adhesion.

“High-quality, easy-to-print PE and PP formulas are in high demand,” said Jason Vagnozzi, commercial director of additive manufacturing at Braskem. “Our specially formulated PE and glass fiber reinforced PP materials are ideal for many 3D printing applications in the injection molding world. These materials can help M. Holland’s clients and business partners realize their additive manufacturing goals.”

First, M. Holland is offering access to Braskem’s FL300PE, a polyethylene filament that is lightweight and low-density, with high dimensional stability and great surface finish. Good for consumer, packaging, and industrial applications, this filament is more consistent and easier to print with than other PE materials, according to Carlos Aponte, Market Manager, 3D Printing at M. Holland.

Braskem FL500PP-GF

M. Holland clients can now also use Braskem’s glass fiber reinforced polypropylene FL500PP-GF filament, which features great surface finish and mechanical properties, as well as being extremely printable. Partially because it’s so highly rigid, this material can be used for applications in industrial manufacturing tools, military and defense, jigs and fixtures, and more.

Both filaments can be purchased in 1.75 and 2.85 mm spools that weigh 700 g, and natural FL300PE costs $35, while black FL500PP-GF is available for $68.

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