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3D PRINT COMPOUNDS | MATERIALS


Expanding options for 3D print


PHOTO: SLANT 3D


No longer just a prototyping tool, 3D printing is now moving into the manufacturing mainstream and new developments in compounds are helping to drive this. Mark Holmes finds out more


Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – is not just an ideal way to produce a prototype quickly and to reduce time to market. Costs of both equipment and materials are coming down and this novel technology is now finding increasing use in applications as varied as making injection moulds and replacements parts through to small scale production and mass customisation. Aiding that transition are developments being made by polymer manufacturers and, particularly, com- pounders that are yielding materials more ideally suited to the specific characteristics and require- ments of the 3D print process. The 3D printing compounds market is now


concentrating on final properties and performance, according to Luis Roca, Head of the Compounding Department at AIMPLAS, the Spanish plastics technology research and development organisa- tion. “3D printing is now considered a processing method to obtain final parts and therefore final functionalisation is vital. This includes mechanical properties with continuous fibres, electrical conductivity, metal replacement with high perfor-


www.compoundingworld.com


mance polymers, food approval developments and more biocompatibility,” he says. “A further trend is that of part size. Previously, due to the small size of the printer, parts were no bigger than 30cm. Now parts of one metre or more are possible, particularly for the automotive industry. Another important subject is the over- printing of other materials like metals to create new structures with very specific functions, for prosthet- ics for example,” Roca says. Roca says that the 3D printing industry now


realises the importance of appropriate polymer modification and the need to obtain a good balance between processing and final properties. This is especially important where final parts are being produced. He says that the main issues include the final mechanical properties and the need to add fillers or additives to achieve customer requirements, which impacts on processing characteristics. Roca believes that 3D processing methods will change to allow more challenging materials to be used. Another important issue is the build speed,


October 2018 | COMPOUNDING WORLD 63


Main image: Slant 3D manufactured these function- al support brackets using Ingeo 870 PLA resin from Natureworks


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