With the sheer number of 3D printer models now available, one would think, there should certainly be a “best printer”. But as those us who follow 3DPrint.com know, while there are certainly several manufacturers, most of the units within a similar price category are very similar. Of course some do stand out for consistency, quality and performance. And sometimes even from the same manufacturer, a new model usually has either simple upgrades, fixes or a combination of both.
So when a company releases a series of truly innovative new products with features that have been requested by the industry, products that are fully tested by the 3D printing community “before release” and makes those products available worldwide, we should take a deeper interest. If for no other reason than the fact that those products are effecting 3D Printing now, and will continue to do so into the future.
In October 2012, taulman3D “Pronounced Tallman 3D” released the first nylon material specifically developed for 3D printing to the 3D printing community, Nylon 618. Until then, the vast majority of operators were using PLA or ABS. With the addition of nylon, one could now print a part to meet all three major requirements for utility; form, fit and now function. Nylon 618 is a new nylon, not a commodity polymer, but a new type of material that has been developed specifically for 3D printing. Commodity nylons from major chemical companies were never developed to accommodate 3D printing but instead, developed for injection molding, blow molding or sheet extrusion. These processes are not nearly as sensitive to minor changes in viscosity as 3D printing is. But did Nylon 618 meet the features requested? According to taulman3D, sales of 618 from release in late October went from zero to 5,000 lbs. in less than four months.
Then in early 2013, taulman3D released Nylon 645, again a new non-commodity polymer stronger and much easier to print than Nylon 618. The real deluxe feature with Nylon 645, was not just it’s increase in strength, but that 645 finally checked off all of the requested features of industry by adding a feature most of us don’t think about, but is extremely important to industry; non-destructive evaluation of 3D printed parts. The quality assurance team can now place a part on a light table and determine quality. Simply put, Nylon 645 was very transparent. If you talk to some industrial users, you’ll find that with the release of Nylon 645, industry was now “on-board” with FFF 3D printing for “customer deliverable 3D printed parts.” Parts that are chemical resistant, parts that can be used to protect other parts and parts you can hit with a hammer that don’t fail are all now possible to fabricate with this material. But again, did Nylon 645 meet the features requested? Today taulman3D sells Nylon 645 on 20 lb/10kg spools to industrial users. And what about strength..? Nylon 645 stands the extreme test of holding its shape and strength while being used in hundreds of sand blasting and blast masking applications. These are applications where ABS and PLA last only a few seconds.
Next was t-glase, pronounced “Tee-Glass”. One of the best features of Nylon 645 and 618 is layer bonding. The main failure of parts printed in ABS is delamination or the lack of consistent layer bonding. With 645, the layer bonding was so good that single perimeter tubes could be folded without delamination. The 3D printing community was wanting that type of layer bonding in a higher tensile, less flexible material. taulman3D answered with the release of t-glase. A PETT polymer with a higher tensile and similar elongation of ABS, but with a list of additional features beyond ABS including.
- Increased Tensile
- 100% layer bonding at defined print temperature.
- A Magnitude of lower shrinkage
- Glass clear and optically correct.
- FDA approval for food/beverage
- Faster melt for faster printing
- Capable of 3D Printed light pipes/guides
Add to this that t-glase was the first FFF 3D printed material capable of true glass transparency with the addition of a simple optical coating, and you have a truly novel development, but so surprising it required a short white paper to describe the process and has now been duplicated by users worldwide.
Again, did t-glase meet the features requested? Beyond optics and esthetics, t-glase is used by several industrial manufactures for various needs, for example, A.O. Smith Corp. If you have a water heater, air conditioner or furnace, it’s likely you have assemblies or sub-assemblies manufactured by AOSmith. AOSmith purchases t-glase on 20 lb spools for use on internal printer farms printing specialty manufacturing aids, part trays, alignment sets, etc. All of which were made by subtractive manufacturing until only last year. In addition, The manufacturers of the large Gigabot printers as well as the huge 3DGroup room size printers both use 20 lb spools of t-glase for large scale jobs where even minor shrinkage can add up in very large prints.
Not standing still, the next release was “Bridge”. By now, many of the comments about taulman3D on social media noted a desire to print these Engineering materials on smaller and less expensive printers. The company went back over the release blog and reading thru the text, they listened to the 3D printing community and worked to release a much lower cost polymer that had most of the strength and durability of a Nylon 645, with only giving up some chemical resistance. This was a feature that also reduced the shrinkage of Bridge. Today, when you hear about someone using “weed-whacker” line for 3D printing, you’ll almost certainly see a rebuttal post as to “why use an unknown with all sorts of fillers that are detrimental to your printer, when you can get a community tested and stronger Nylon from taulman3D at a comparable price..?”.
So, did “Bridge” meet the features requested? Just ask any of the web portals that carry taulman3D products what the top taulman3D seller is.
Moving on, taulman3D released PCTPE. Other materials vendors had released thermoplastic elastomer materials at around the same time as Nylon 645 and they noted the utility of these materials and the benefits they provided to industrial users. While these materials are excellent and have a considerable number of uses, they don’t provide as much durability as nylon. taulman3D worked to develop a co-polymer of highly flexible nylon and TPE; 85% Nylon and 15% TPE. The result is Plasticized Co-polyamide Thermoplastic Elastomer or PCTPE. As those who use TPE/TPU materials know, they can be difficult for most 3D Printers to handle. This holds true to a certain extent with PCTPE, however, another feature of taulman3D nylons is that they are not extruded, but rather drawn. This adds a “taunt” type feature to the final line making it easily processed by any 3D printer even at the smaller 1.75mm size. PCTPE is relatively new, but there are already small companies using it for prosthetics and footwear.
If all of this wasn’t enough….In March, 2015 taulman3D released the “super material,” Alloy 910. A material we found was sent out in various test trials of initial revisions almost a year before its final release. Not only is Alloy 910 very easy to print, but some compare its tensile strength or stiffness with polycarbonate and its surface texture to cast nylon. With no additives, no odors, no fumes, no carbon fiber, and no filler of any type, within just 2 months of 910’s release, it was already being sold on 20 lb spools to users like GigaBot and other industrial customers.
It was just prior to the release of Alloy 910 that the top plastics/chemical/polymer companies started looking for an outlet or position within the 3D printing arena. Eastman Chemical Co had already finalized internal development of a 3D printable co-polyester and released a product called Amphora in the EU about 18 months ago. Looking for a distribution partner in the US, Eastman Chemical selected taulman3D to bring Amphora to North American users. Amphora is an excellent 3D Printing Co-Polyester. The esthetics and increase in strength were a perfect match for the current line of taulman3D products and are now sold as “n-vent”.
With Eastman Chemical along with PETT and nylon chemical companies already on-board, other companies began contacting taulman3D due to a consistent track record of innovation.
Next to join with taulman3D was Aspen Chemical Co. a specialist in unique PLA. There are currently 100’s of sites offering PLA for 3D printing and while PLA has benefits, taulman3D wanted to bring added features to the 3D printing community. Of those, a new glass-clear quality of prints along with added strength and a higher Tg. With this new relationship, taulman3D released “In-PLA” or Industrial PLA. And because In-PLA is a clear PLA, the released colors look transparent as well.
Next was the long awaited release of Nylon 680 FDA, an extremely strong nylon that is designed to meet specific FDA standards. Nylon 680 is already in clinics and evaluation labs where it is going through bio-compatibility and sterilization evaluations. There has been an explosion of interests and uses for clinical and other possibilities of 3D printing a compatible Nylon, so we expect to see more information and comments about Nylon 680 as it progresses through test channels.
With the release of Nylon 680, that’s nine releases of engineering materials, each specifically developed for 3D Printing and each with a unique set of features, in underthree years. I think it’s safe to say “Continuous Innovation” applies to taulman3D.