AMS Spring 2023

M. Holland Leads Legacy Injection Molding Users to 3D Printing Technology

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Founded in 1950 in the Chicago, Illinois area, M. Holland has grown to become a large North American distributor of thermoplastic resin selling billions of pounds of materials in its history. In the last few years, this has meant expanding beyond traditional markets and tackling the newer field of additive manufacturing (AM).

Beyond providing 3D printing plastics for its clients, M. Holland aids customers in nearly every aspect of the AM workflow, including engineering and production services. To learn more, I met up with Carlos Aponte, Market Manager of Electrical/Electronics and 3D Printing, and Trevor White, Application Development Engineer for Additive Manufacturing, at M. Holland. The pair filled me in on the breadth of AM activity in which the plastics distributor is involved, as well as its latest partnership with Braskem, announced in conjunction with IMTS 2022.

M. Holland’s Full-Service 3D Printing Division

Holland entered the additive space in 2018, seeing that 3D printing was being used increasingly by its injection molding clients. M. Holland’s Additive division was carved out from the larger business. To lead the efforts, the company hired on Haleyanne Freedman, who realized that the firm needed to do more than offer filaments to its clients. It actually needed to educate them, introducing them not just to the materials but to the applications and production processes as well.

“We became an information center to help a lot of our legacy clients,” Aponte told 3DPrint.com. “Over the years, we have tried to spread that message within the injection molding community.”

Aponte went on to explain that this role as an information center led M. Holland to provide training, design work, distributor of machines and materials, and a service bureau. This has meant not only 3D printing components in-house using Ultimaker, Formlabs, and other machines, but outsourcing to third parties that have a broader equipment and materials portfolio. External providers offer large-format stereolithography and powder bed fusion, among other technologies.

“We don’t want to fit that square peg in a round hole,” Aponte explained. “We want to make whatever is best for the client. We want to provide that agnostic approach. We’re not trying to push any particular material or printer or anything like that. We’re trying to do what’s best for the client.”

Beyond 3D Printing Thermoplastics

While the division is separate from the broader M. Holland business, it still has access to over 4,000 legacy injection molding customers. Though those clients may traditionally work with thermoplastics, M. Holland is able to introduce them to a vast array of materials, including thermosets and metals.

“Our customers are more familiar with thermoplastics, but it’s about showing them that thermosets can also be used for their application. It can fit the right scenario, and even make some of their applications better and more reliable,” White said. “We do a little bit of work in metals because of the tools used in injection molding, but not too many of our clients are focused on metal.”

This means that, when you visit the M. Holland 3D website, the materials on offer aren’t the only ones provided by the service bureau portion of the business. From the looks of it, there’s plenty of room for growth for the additive division. White and Aponte pointed out that they’re offering polymer pellets for granule extrusion systems, known for their quick speed and massive size. BASF metal filaments are sold on the website, but one can easily imagine a company like Mantle being a perfect partner for M. Holland, as the Bay Area start-up is targeting the $45 billion  injection mold tooling market.

M. Holland Offers Braskem 3D Printing Materials

Braskem FL300PE. Image courtesy of Braskem.

Meanwhile, M. Holland continues to expand partnerships with existing collaborators, such as Braskem. In conjunction with IMTS, the Chicagoland firm announced that it would be distributing Braskem’s polyethylene (PE) polymers, after already providing its polypropylene (PP).

“There was almost no offering of polyethylene available. Braskem is one of the first to offer this material now,” White said. “Now, we can go to customers in the packaging space and say we have this polyethylene that you use for normal injection molding available in a 3D printable form, as well. The customers in the injection molding space are able to understand it because it’s the same material that they’ll be using in their end use applications.”

Braskem’s PE, FL300PE, and glass fiber-reinforced PP, FL500PP-GF, offer reduced shrinkage and warpage, high printability, and good interlayer adhesion. In particular, FL300PE is meant to be lightweight and low-density, with high dimensional stability and good surface finish. With that in mind, it’s being targeted at consumer, packaging, and industrial applications. FL500PP-GF filament is said to offer great surface finish and mechanical properties, while remaining extremely printable. In part due to its high rigidity, it is being framed as ideal for such applications as industrial manufacturing tools, military and defense, jigs and fixtures, and more.

M. Holland in the Larger 3D Printing Industry

Holland occupies a unique space in the additive sector. As a distributor, it can remain relatively neutral in terms of specific additive technologies, though it surely leans on its partner network in terms of selling certain machines and materials. However, as a historical provider of injection molding plastics, it can act as a gateway for those companies as they utilize AM more and more. Aponte said as much:

“We want to be  that engine that takes them [our clients into] additive manufacturing and makes this a part of their portfolio, whether they’re performing full injection molding or a hobbyist,” Aponte concluded.

Feature image courtesy of M. Holland. 

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