Insights from Formnext Connect 2020 by Merve Canalp, Researcher at AMEXCI AB 

Advancements in Polymer AM technologies and materials have been gaining momentum day by day. The ever-growing interest from the industry has led to improvements in the automation systems for Industry 4.0 readiness, digitalization of production chains as well as emergence of new AM materials. 

1. Polymer AM is getting ready for Industry 4.0 

Solukon’s new SFP 770 post-processing system.

Serial production of 3D printed polymer parts depends on the integration of automated systems from material handling to post processing.  HP has collaborated with AM Solutions, 3D post processing brand of Rösler, on the development and optimization of HP 3D automatic unpacking station compatible with 5200 3D printers. This automated system for powder removal aims to reduce cost per part while optimizing the equipment for scaling and industrial production. 

Similarly, Solukon has introduced an automated powder removal system, SFP770, which can take about 30 minutes to unpack and remove residual powder from a fully loaded build box of 150 litres of polymer parts from EOS P7 system. Siemens has demonstrated how an end-to-end manufacturing line could be optimized with an accurate introduction of automated solutions into a serial production of shoe soles printed with EOS P500 system.

In addition, Stratasys, a leading FDM technology OEM, has introduced their solution, the Digital Factory for serial production of variety of materials printed by Fortus 900 system.

At AMEXCI, we believe that new updates and trends in the development of automated systems and novel digitalization solutions will keep emerging for polymer Additive Manufacturing (AM) industrial 4.0 readiness.  

2.Arkema 3D Printing Solutions presents a wide array of materials

Arkema is one of the leading companies in specialty chemicals. The additive manufacturing focus group of Arkema, 3D printing solutions, offers variety of polymeric feedstock materials such as photocurable resins (N3xtDimension®), thermoplastic powders for powder bed fusion (Kepstan® PEKK, Rilsan® PA11, Orgasol® PA12 and soon Pebax® TPE) as well as thermoplastic pellets for filament extrusion (Kepstan® PEKK, Kynar® PVDF, Pebax® TPE, and Altuglas® PMMA). Arkema works on large scale production of feedstocks while partnering with other material suppliers, e.g., Advanced Laser Materials (EOS), Forward AM (BASF) and Prodways Materials, which are broadly excelled in smaller scaled projects. 

We see the increased offering of Arkema, one of the leading chemistry company for polymers, as a clear sign that AM becomes a more mature market and believe that the availability of materials will continue to increase in the years to come.

3. BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH-Forward presents innovative materials enabling new applications

BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH-Forward AM was founded in 2017 by BASF, one of the most prominent chemical companies, through R&D and innovative collaborations develops new materials and integrated system solutions. Forward AM offers selected 3D printing materials Ultrasint® TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane Powder), Ultrasint® PA6 FR (Flame Retardant Polymer Powder), and PP (Polypropylene Powder) printed at Sculpteo

Other than polymers, Forward AM also offers metal extrusion solutions for jigs and fixtures production. A simulation tool, Ultrasim® for elastomers, i.e., Elastollan® (TPU), was introduced to design optimal lattice structures printed by TPU. More details about this tool can be found in the article regarding software by AMEXCI’s Srikanth Purli.

Formed by BASF’s Digital Transformation initiative, a start-up company, Replique 3D, aims to accelerate de-centralized 3D printing by providing an end-to-end solution for OEMs to manufacture on-demand, sell and distribute spare parts globally to their customers.

The addition of several known polymer powders such as TPU, PP and PA will further push SLS technologies and enable the production of several new applications.

4.EVONIK collaborates with Voxeljet and Cubicure

The strategic innovation unit Creavis of Evonik, which is one of the world leaders in specialty chemicals, collaborates with Voxeljet, a pioneer 3D printer OEM and on-demand parts service provider for binder jetting.Developed by Evonik, nanoscale additives facilitate structure refinement of the powder-based parts, within both polymer and metal AM technologies. Accordingly, addition of Silica based nanoparticle composites increase flowability of the powder while reducing porosity of printed parts which enhances their mechanical properties.  

Evonik has also collaborated with Cubicure for the development of a high-end photo-resin used in Hot Lithography technology, Caligma 200.

We see that more and more feedstock suppliers have been developing new materials and adjusting old chemical formulations of polymeric materials for the use in polymer AM technologies. In the upcoming years, we expect to see a broader range of materials which might reduce the costs and lift polymer AM further up.  

5.Intamsys introduces FDM technology to print VICTREX™ PAEK

Printing PEEK parts has always been a challenge due to the high melting temperatures. Intamsys, established in 2013 (Shanghai, China), has introduced an FDM machine which prints high performance polymers like PEEK with better interlayer adhesion and with improved tensile strength in the Z-direction.  They have printed Victrex AMTM PAEK 200 polymer filament which is chemically optimized for 3D printing by lowering PEEK print melt temperature from 343 oC to 305 oC.

We see the development that more and more companies offering solutions for printing high performance polymers such as PEEK as an important step to further industrialize polymer Additive Manufacturing.

About Merve Canalp

Merve Canalp works as a Researcher at Amexci and her expertise lies in the field of polymer materials. Her daily tasks include investigating Polymer AM applications and contributing to corporate R&D projects.

For more information, or if you would like to discuss polymer AM, get in touch with Merve at: