Interview: What high-performance 3D printing materials allow for

16 Jul, 2020

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High-performance 3D printing materials

High-performance 3D printing materials

Through this interview with head of Design Studio Alexandre d'Orsetti, we have reviewed 6 high-performance Additive Manufacturing materials, as well as the possibilities they open up

Thanks to high-performance materials, 3D Printing can be scaled to industrial production and leveraged for the manufacturing of technical part that can operate in risk environments.

Used along with Ultrasint® PP nat 01, Jet Fusion PP, Ultrasint® PA6 FR, Ultrasint® PA6 MF, Ultrasint® TPU 88A and Ultrasint® TPU 01, Additive Manufacturing allows to make parts dedicated to extensive industrial applications, by providing them with good mechanical properties, heat and chemical resistance, flexibility and sealing characteristics.

Should these high-performance materials have picked your curiosity, we have interviewed Sculpteo Studio Director Alexandre D’Orsetti to come up with this Q&A, which will address all interrogations you may have on their specificities. Discover the properties, the applications, and advantages of these materials through this Additive Manufacturing expert’s eye!

Ultrasint® PP nat 01 & Jet Fusion PP

What are the characteristics of these materials?

Polypropylene nat 01 (for SLS technology) and the Jet-Fusion Polypropylene (for MJF technology) are very sturdy and rigid materials. The former has a white look, even slightly translucent, while the latter is grey/black. The regular versions of these polymers are well-spread in injection molding and for a variety of industries, because they are cheap and present good properties. The top quality of Polypropylene is its chemical resistance, as this material offers great resistance against aggressive substances. It is also a very resistant, light material which handles a good elongation at break. Polypropylene is hence well-suited for parts subjected to mechanical stress, while its sealing properties allows for fluid container manufacturing.

What are the applications and advantages of these materials?

Polypropylene finds a number of applications in the transportation and automotive industries, in part thanks to its chemical resistance, which makes this material a fit for parts dealing with hydrocarbons. Polypropylene can thus be used as part of tank, circuit, flux conductor manufacturing that may evolve in aggressive environments.

Due to this same quality, Polypropylene is common in many industry fields and is used for tooling or flow conductors. We can mention custom-made flow connectors, which are meant to connect pipes in constrained environments. This material is also utilised in the Medical, inter alia, for orthosis manufacturing. As mentioned previously, Polypropylene is also widespread in injection molding, which means that it is applied to many types of projects.

What makes Polypropylene special is that it presents simultaneous advantages that other materials would tend to offer individually, like sturdiness, rigidity, and chemical resistance.

Ultrasint® PA6 FR

What are the characteristics of this material?

PA6 FR is a black rigid material printed using SLS technologies. It is quite sturdy and presents one peculiar advantage, which is its temperature resistance. “FR” stands for “Flame Retardant”, and in turns, this means this material is a great candidate for uses within risk environments.

What are the applications and advantages of this material?

PA6 FR applies well to any setting where there are fire ignition issues and significant constraints. We can mention its applications in Electronics, where this material is employed to produce parts such as electronic connectors, encasings and other components. PA6 FR can also be used as part of flammable flow management systems, or for parts subjected to high fire requirements such as in Aerospace, Aeronautics, or Transports. In these industries one can resort to this material for air conveyor parts (inlet pipes for instance), given that it has undergone Smoke Density and Smoke Toxicity (FST) tests with success. 

 PA6 FR can also be implemented within high-risk factories, where high fire constraints do exist. In that regard, its mechanical properties can be leveraged for jigs, fixture parts and tooling manufacturing.

In other words, its great rigidity, its good thermal and fire resistance makes this material best suited for applications implying high heat. 

Ultrasint® PA6 MF

What are the characteristics of this material?

PA6 MF, standing for “Mineral-Filled”, is a material strengthened by an internal load. As a 3D 

printing plastic, it presents exceptional rigidity and resistance levels. PA6 MF is also watertight and presents a high deformation threshold under high temperatures.

What are the applications and advantages of this material?

Thanks to the quality we listed up, PA6 MF can be employed for high-temperature flow container manufacturing. It can be used to stock oil, for networks, dispensing and connection parts. It is also a material one uses in the Automotive industry, especially with regards to engine part production. Indeed, its thermal resistance and good mechanical properties make this material a relevant pick for such applications. These same characteristics can benefit more common 3D Printing parts, like those for tooling. 

Ultrasint® TPU 88A & Ultrasint® TPU 01 

What are the characteristics of these materials?

TPU 88A for SLS technologies and TPU01 for Jet-Fusion ones are thermoplastics, elastomers, that’s to say flexible materials. Look-wise, the former is white while the other is grey. To get an idea of their flexibility, they can withstand an elongation at break of 270 %. Other than that, what makes TPU unique are its choc absorption and bounce characteristics. It also has a good surface quality, which can be fine-tuned with finishings. Both materials can indeed undergo chemical smoothing, which provides them with a perfectly sleek, bright look. Taking into account that this is a powder material, this material can then be provided with an outstanding surface finish, translucent for TPU 88A, and black for TPU 01.

What are the applications and advantages of these materials?

The shock absorption and flexibility of TPU make it a good match for sports equipment manufacturing, like soles for instance. Orthopaedic models can also be made out of this material. 

Used along with 3D Printing, this material can be employed to produce parts designed with lattice structures, allowing to vary the mechanical properties of the parts, hence for more flexibility for example. TPU also displays great potential for gripping members such as grippers, but also for flexible pipes.

Why is that interesting to 3D print these materials?

On-demand manufacturing

3D printing can be scaled to the user’s production. If one wants to print an only part with these high-performance materials, that’s possible. The same idea applies to a hundred parts, etc.

Turnaround times are also fast, and the lead-time between ideation and getting the part is also beneficial, in comparison with other manufacturing techniques or with mold set-ups.

Design for Additive Manufacturing: The advantages

Used along with 3D printing, one can shape these high-performance materials with complex geometries. The design freedom of this technology allows to make lattices, topological optimisations, hollowed shapes, parts without assemblies or that fit right into available areas in technical systems.

In turns, these design advantages can translate into better performing, more cost-effective parts, which take less time to be assembled. If we get back to our TPU example, 3D printing helps design parts with varying flexibility, depending on the different zones.

This potential allows for lighter parts that can be integrated into environments where this criterion is at stake, like in Aeronautics. 

What about the costs?

From an economic standpoint, these high-performance materials take on their full significance when parts are well-conceived for Additive Manufacturing. By optimising them well, gains can be achieved thanks to the complexity of the parts, by the decrease in the number of components and assembly time.
These high-performance materials, unlike others that we had seen before, function with powder technologies based on a batch logic. With this logic, one can project oneself into series production scenarios, in which the price is affordable.

Would you like to get more insights into 3D Printing materials ? Find other thematic articles addressing flexible, sturdy, bio-compatible Additive Manufacturing materials here.

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