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product in or around 2017, but has not disclosed the specifi c machine technology. It is expected to use polyamide, poly- propylene, and other thermoplastic materials. Mattel plans to ship its new ThingMaker, based on material extrusion, in the second half of this year. The $299 product, targeted at kids, comes a half century after its Creepy Crawler ThingMaker that used small molds and plastic goop to make rubbery worms and insects.


New Materials Third-party companies that produce materials, especially


metals, are also entering the AM industry at a fast pace. Among those that are introducing metals are Equispheres (Canada), Carpenter Technology Corp. (USA), FalconTech (China), H.C. Starck (Germany), Höganäs AB (Sweden), LPW Technology (UK), Osaka Titanium Technologies (Japan), Praxair Surface Technologies (USA), and Sandvik Materials Technology (Sweden). Wohlers Associates counts 34 com- panies offering metals for AM.


Even though AM for polymers has been around for nearly 1.5 decades longer than AM for metals, fewer third-party companies have offered polymers for industrial AM. This is because some of the major producers of AM systems have locked down their machines, preventing other material prod- ucts from being used in them. The expiration of key patents, followed by the development of new AM machines with open-system architecture, has led to a rise in the number of companies offering polymers for these machines. Among the third-party companies that offer polymers for in- dustrial AM systems are Arkema (France), DSM Somos (USA), Evonik (Germany), Farsoon (China), and Rhodia (France). An estimated 23 companies offer polymers for industrial AM sys- tems. This is up from a small handful a few years ago.


Emerging Applications


The use of AM for making models and prototype parts is well established and understood. The industry has had 28 years to develop and refi ne the technology and workfl ow


INTELLIGENT ALTERNATIVE


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May 2016 | AdvancedManufacturing.org 49


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