New 3D Printing Material News Galore at formnext 2017
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on November 15, 2017 | 5038 views

As exciting as new 3D printers can be, these machines would be nothing without their material counterparts. At formnext 2017, numerous new deals and products were announced by some of the largest chemical manufacturers in the world. Let’s break down a few of the highlights.

Dow Chemical Company Ventures into 3D Printing Filament

After a merger between two of the largest chemical companies this year, Dow Chemical and DuPont, DowDuPont became the largest, beating out competitor BASF. As such, it is now entering the 3D-printing industry. DuPont previously began working with such 3D-printing filament manufacturers as taulman3D, but the Dow Chemical Company is launching its own 3D printing material brand, EVOLV3D. Products include EVOLV3D USM (Universal Support Material), a water-soluble filament for fused filament fabrication (FFF) that will be released in early 2018, as well as a liquid silicone rubber for FFF developed with German RepRap.

BASF

Now the second largest chemical company, BASF has been in the 3D-printing space for bit longer, developing plastic selective laser sintering (SLS) powders and, more recently, powders for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion. The company also acquired Dutch filament manufacturer Innofil3D.

At formnext, BASF announced that it had partnered with Ricoh for material, processing and application development. This includes material for the RICOH AM S5500P 3D printer, now installed at BASF’s 3D-P Application Technology Center in Heidelberg, Germany.

Additionally, BASF is working with SLS machine manufacturer EOS to create new thermoplastic polyurethane and polyamide powders. BASF also will be developing photopolymers for XAAR’s photopolymer jetting 3D printing. And, once a deal is complete with BigRep, BASF will become a preferred material and application development partner for the large-scale FFF manufacturer.

SABIC

SABIC is best known in the 3D-printing industry for the manufacturing of ULTEM, a strong and heat-resistant plastic that has been certified for use in aerospace applications. At formnext, the company is releasing a new filament, LEXAN EXL AMHI240F, which is engineered to have high-impact performance and low-temperature ductility. The company also is bringing to the European market eight reinforced materials for large format 3D printing that were unveiled at RAPID 2017.

LEXAN EXL AMHI240F filament is based on the company’s LEXAN EXL polycarbonate (PC) copolymer. With high toughness and strength, the material is targeted for use in aerospace, electronics and the automotive industry. The company also is showcasing at formnext PC material for SLS, as well as PC, ULTEM and thermoplastic polyamide filaments.

LPW and AIRBUS APWorks

A newer player in the 3D-printing material space is AIRBUS APWorks, the 3D-printing focused subsidiary of the aerospace giant. At formnext, APWorks announced a partnership with metal material manufacturer LPW Technology, which will now supply APWorks’ aluminum-magnesium-scandium alloy Scalmalloy to 3D-printing customers.

The Light Rider electric motorcycle from APWorks weighs just 35 kg. (Image courtesy of APWorks.)
The Light Rider electric motorcycle from APWorks weighs just 35 kg. (Image courtesy of APWorks.)

Scalmalloy made its debut last year when APWorks showed off a 3D-printed motorcycle that weighs just 35 kg. The bike demonstrated the high strength and low weight of the material. This high strength to weight ratio, along with a high level of corrosion resistance, makes the material ideal for aerospace and transportation. Other unique properties include high cooling rates and rapid solidification, which results in part microstructures that remain stable at high temperatures. APWorks also suggests that Scalmalloy has “high fatigue properties, weldability, strength and ductility compared to other aluminum alloy powders.”

Carbon Goes Medical with Biocompatible Resins

It was announced that Carbon would be working with the likes of Johnson & Johnson to enable the ultra-quick 3D printing of custom biomedical devices. The company has now released a soft, tear-resistant and biocompatible silicone resin that will further the company toward its goal. Dubbed SIL 30, the silicone urethane material has been certified for biocompatibility along with six other Carbon resins, including its Cyanate Ester (CE 220), Rigid Polyurethane (RPU 61 and RPU 70), Elastomeric Polyurethane (EPU 40), Epoxy (EPX 81) and Urethane Methacrylate (UMA 90).

Stents of various sizes 3D-printed using Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology were able to meet narrow requirements for Children’s Minnesota Hospital researchers. (Image courtesy of Carbon.)
Stents of various sizes 3D-printed using Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology were able to meet narrow requirements for Children’s Minnesota Hospital researchers. (Image courtesy of Carbon.)

A team of researchers at Children’s Minnesota Hospital are exploring the use of SIL 30 for the creation of airway stents for children, a group often neglected for its small market size.

The Link Between Material and Climate

With the 3D-printing material market predicted to hit $24 billion by 2027, according to IDTechEx, some of the chemical industry’s largest businesses don’t seem to want to miss out. It must be taken into account, however, that as the plastics industry grows, it must compete with the devastating effects that plastics have on the environment.

Chemical companies won’t go down in history as protectors of the environment. Not only was Dow Chemical responsible for the twin terrors of the Vietnam War, napalm and Agent Orange, but Dow has played a role in 96 of the Superfund toxic waste sites in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and its past is checkered with polluted drinking water and toxic gas clouds.

Making the plastics that fill our lives is dirty business. The production of plastic is estimated to use 8 percent of annual oil production across the globe, 4 percent for making the plastics themselves and 4 percent to fuel production. As a result, 100 million to 500 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere each year as the result of plastic production.

This impact is compounded by the damage plastic waste does to CO2 sequestration in our oceans. A recent study estimated that 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean annually. Such sea life as the lanternfish helps reduce the impacts of CO2 emissions by eating carbon-filled plankton.

The lanternfish, in particular, is estimated to sequester 20 to 35 percent of CO2 emissions, more carbon than all of the world’s forests combined. Now that the oceans are filled with plastic, these fish are eating discarded plastic instead of plankton, not only negating the effects of eating plankton, but also causing death to lanternfish populations and impacting their migratory patterns. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography found that lanternfish are eating tens of tons of plastic debris in the North Pacific alone.

Released in time for the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change, the 2017 Global Carbon Budget estimated that humanity has approximately 32 years before the atmosphere hits the widely agreed tipping point of  2℃ above pre-industrial levels, at which point irreversible damage will be done to the climate. While more obvious targets for preventing this catastrophe include shifting the electric grid and vehicle flue toward renewable energy, it has become clear that an all-hands-on-deck approach that involves changing our lifestyles and even entire economic and social systems may be required. This likely means removing petrochemicals from the material we use and finding ways to systematically address consumption attitudes that allow entire societies to dump waste in the ocean rather than repurposing it.

To learn more about the role 3D printing could play in such a change, read our article on sustainability and 3D printing.


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