Two major 3D printing companies have shared how they are working on expanding access to industry-leading 3D printing materials for customers. Both Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) and 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) announced news last week of their moves to drive materials adoption, with 3D Systems engaging in a new partnership with EOS subsidiary Advanced Laser Materials (ALM), a research and production facility in Texas, and Stratasys launching 13 new validated materials, including the SAF PA12 powder, also from materials partner ALM.
Broadening the range of available materials can open up new application areas for 3D printing. There is a drive to expand this submarket for AM as users continue to explore applications in growing segments, including aerospace, automotive, and healthcare. As depicted by 3D printing pioneer Stratasys, there should be no limits to what is possible with the technology. For CEO Yoav Zeif, that translates to a new opportunity to supply materials to a polymer industry heavily investing in AM.
“The world urgently needs to make this shift to additive manufacturing at scale,” points out Zeif.
Working towards that goal, Stratasys partnered with materials providers Covestro from Germany, Kimya from France, and Victrex from the U.K., to make validated materials available for its FDM printers, starting with the Fortus 450mc. These materials have been validated by Stratasys with basic reliability testing to accelerate the expansion of material options available in the marketplace.
FDM-Friendly 3D Printing Materials
Expected to ship in early 2023, Stratasys announced four FDM materials that customers can now order. Formulated for end-use parts production in high-requirement industries such as oil and gas and aerospace, the Victrex AM 200 is a semi-crystalline low-melt PAEK thermoplastic filament that combines the benefits of a high-performance polymer with the design freedom of FDM additive technology.
Another two material options were created for rail applications. First, the Covestro Addigy PA6/66-GF20 flame retardant (FR) low smoke (LS) product is designed as a glass fiber composite material certified for use in railway and other transportation applications. With a material strength and stiffness similar to Nylon 12CF, this filament meets flame, smoke, and toxicity norms. In addition, it can be printed easily on standard filament machines, eliminating the need for high-temperature printers.
Like Covestro’s validated FDM material, the Kimya PC-FR creation also meets EN45545 requirements for rail applications and is designed explicitly for end-use parts, including low-volume production and replacement components. A ready-to-use smokeless polycarbonate plastic, Kimya PC-FR can withstand temperatures of up to 221°F (105°C), which makes it ideal for printing mechanisms and railway parts subject to high heat, such as runners to increase the wheel-rail adhesion of a train in case of emergency braking.
FDM HIPS, or high-impact polystyrene, is the last on the FDM materials list and an affordable high-impact product for low-requirements applications. With similar mechanical properties to ABS in most respects, FDM HIPS offers much higher impact resistance than ABS, providing durability for 3D printed parts, states Stratasys. In addition, the company believes that as it is a low-cost option, it will be a good choice for prototyping applications where multiple iterations are desired to refine design concepts.
In addition, several existing products are now available in colors as validated materials, including flame-retardant, high-performance thermoplastic ULTEM 9085 in red and white; PC polycarbonate filament with heat resistance and high durability for functional prototypes and tooling applications in red and black, and PCS-ABS in red.
Stratasys also announced that it selected ALM as the first provider of SAF PA12 (also known as nylon 12) material for its H350 powder bed fusion 3D printer. Since ALM specializes in the engineering, testing, and manufacturing high-quality polymer materials, its PA12 is ideal for applications like high-detail production parts, prosthetic medical devices, ducts, enclosures, and connector assemblies.
Another ALM partnership in the Making
For 3D Systems, there is also a new partnership with ALM. The duo plans to accelerate material adoption and drive AM industry growth by expanding access to industry-leading 3D printing materials. Toward that goal, ALM will add 3D Systems’ proprietary DuraForm PAx material to its portfolio. As a result, ALM’s customers will have access to a copolymer designed explicitly for use with available Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technologies.
This partnership is the first step between 3D Systems and ALM to address the material needs of customers who may use SLS technologies from various equipment manufacturers. More specifically, according to 3D Systems Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer David Leigh, by joining together, both companies are not only helping manufacturers innovate more rapidly but also able to “redirect the innovation pipelines” to create more first-to-market materials.
“I believe this, in turn, will also foster future 3D printing technology innovations thus creating additional options for manufacturers to procure the optimal solution for their application,” explained Leigh.
The move is part of 3D Systems’ open materials strategy, unveiled earlier this year with its DuraForm PAx, a material that can serve manufacturing applications like orthotics, living hinges, liquid reservoirs, and enclosures requiring high impact and high toughness.
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