Jim Anderton: In any polymeric additive process, materials are key. If you have specific requirements, for example in tooling, fixturing or for high-performance applications, you need more than commodity polymers. I’m with Blake Teipel, president and co-founder of Essentium. Blake, I understand that you've got some examples here of filled and coated polymeric 3D printed parts are used for applications for which you would normally never consider 3D printing. Tell me about it!
Blake Tiepel: Yeah, we totally do, thanks for bringing that up. So, right here is an example of a 3D printed preform. This is a 5-kilogram part, 24 inches long. We print the preform out of our polyamide carbon fiber material. it's an ultra fuse material called ultra fuse Z. With this material, we print the preform and then we'll throw this preform on a CNC mill to achieve a Class A finish. I don't have the class A part for this geometry with me today, but what I do have is a separate example made from the same material.
BT: This is an injection mold insert. We got over a hundred shots of injection molded polypropylene with a Class A finish out of our 3D printed preform. Thanks to our flash fuse technology, we can seal the tool from the inside out, so you can run 100 psi coolant water through the tool without leaking. This opens up a whole variety of opportunities for fast tooling, soft tooling, and short-run parts in automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods that were previously unavailable from an injection mold standpoint.
JA: What is this material? It’s obviously a highly filled material.
BT: It’s a carbon fiber filled polyamide, exactly right.
JA: Now historically of course, the polyamide we used to think of, you can get into a world of hurt with polyamides. They absorb water like crazy. But when once you fill it, you get a different material property from either the base materials that go into it.
BT: That's exactly right. This is a composite material. It's a highly loaded carbon fiber, it's 3D printed with our high-speed extrusion platform, so you can produce the part very rapidly. It enjoys a high degree of dimensional stability because of that carbon fiber which is in there, stabilizing the polymer system. As you mentioned, nylon and polyester are hygroscopic materials, meaning they'll absorb moisture like crazy. One of the things at Essentium that we've done is we've used dry box technology exclusively and extensively, in order to create a safe environment and a dry environment to care for our filament and keep our filament dry.
JA: In the consumer electronics industry, for example, they've got to worry about very delicate electronics in which there's issues with electrostatic discharge. Because of this, these assembly tasks require highly conductive jigs or fixtures. I understand you have a solution that helps that?
BT: Yeah, we absolutely do. Essentium Z materials, whether it's ultrafuse Z, or Essentium Z materials, provide a two-fold advantage. number one, they're strong in all directions. We've addressed that Z strength delamination failure mode. Second, because our materials are so electrically conductive, they're actually useful in ESD-safe applications in a variety of special ways.
BT: For example, we have a urethane material here in an assembly jig for an SMT electronic component assembly. The real advantage of our materials is that they're so conductive, they're ESD safe without marring, sloughing or marking any cosmetically sensitive surfaces, or leaving behind any residue inside your electronics. Additionally, since our materials are built on top of BASF urethanes, they're actually quite pliable so that your electronic components are safe. I've got this in an AD Shore A, so this is very flexible and compliant. We also have the exact same technology available in a 74D material. We have a variety of urethanes, a variety of hardnesses for a variety of applications--all ESD-safe.
JA: Well I love the flexibility, it seems ideal for pick-and-place robotics or semi-automatic devices to eject a part from the fixture.
BT: It’s got a little bit of give, exactly right.
JA: specialty materials, including electrically conductive, fiber filled, and other options that let you do interesting things like create plastic injection molds, says Blake Tiepel of Essentium.