3D polymer printing: an ecosystem to create

In order to integrate a 3D printer within your company, you first need to choose from an ever-increasing range of machines. You also need to associate other features such as 3D CAD, 3D digitisation, a network of suppliers, etc. Sirris can help you.

Late 2017, the sale of the millionth office printer was announced. A figure that perfectly illustrated the increasing dissemination of these machines across the globe. Yet, despite the great media buzz in 2014, leading us all to believe that we would soon see 3D printers in every garage, kitchen and even bedroom, today's vision of the market is more realistic and we now know that this type of machine is more appropriate to designers, artists, scientists, schools, and, of course, companies, etc.

For this type of user, 3D printing is often too slow. All developments in associated technologies now aim to increase construction speed and, consequently, productivity.

Stereolithography

In stereolithography, Carbon's continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) is a rapid polymerisation technology that has already met with great success. Yet, more broadly speaking, machines that use projection rather than a polymerisation laser offer improved speed and are more widely used. The following are worthy of note:

  • UNIZ's small SLASH+ machine offers a construction volume of 190 x 120 x 200 mm for a cost of $3,500
  • XYZ Printing's MfgPro 180 xPF printer (developed in partnership with Nexa3D) offers a volume of 180 x 140 x 200 mm for $20,000
  • Ackuretta's Ackuray A135 (135 x 75 x 150 mm) comes in at $20,000
  • MakeX's M-One Pro 70, in turn offers a construction volume of 135 x 75 x 170 mm

Despite the great boom in professional machines, 'fun' machines are still on the market. For example, T3D launched a small 3D printer capable of solidifying matter thanks to the light emitted by a smartphone. It can even stratify printed material in a range of colours.

Laser sintering

The market of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) machines for polyamide 12 is also diversifying. EOS is still the market leader, but it is now being challenged by 3D Systems (ProX SLS & sPre series), Ricoh (AM S5500P) and XYZ Printing (MfgPro 230 xs), each competitor offering its own specific advantages.

Smaller and less costly (€10,000-€20,000) SLS printers are also coming into general use. Sinterit (Poland) and Sintratec (Switzerland) are just two examples. FormLabs, another supplier more commonly known for its SLA printers, recently launched Fuse1, an SLS printer offering a volume of 165 x 165 x 320 mm.

The materials that can be used via these technologies are also diversifying: for example PA11 and PA6 with short glass or carbon fibre loads, polypropylene and flexible materials such as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
PEEK and other high-performance polymers are also being deployed on specific machines capable of production temperatures in excess of 350°C.

Jetting

HP Jet Fusion technology has gained an established position on the market. It offers interesting manufacturing speed: a 380 x 280 x 380 mm plate requires a production time of 10 hours (4 cm in height/hour) followed by a 10-hour cooling period outside the machine for 80µm layers. Precision heat control is well designed. It also offers a high recycling rate.

Fused filament fabrication

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) machines are also burgeoning, some of them offering interesting innovations such as Hage 3D's 175X 5-axis printer.

Value for money in the field of high temperature printers capable of using materials such as PEEK varies largely, with prices ranging from €10,000 to €60,000. Among them, Intamsys, Apium, 3DGence, Roboze and Gewo 3D are worthy of note.

Several suppliers succeed in reducing operating costs by means of a standard granules feed rather than filament. Such is the case of the e-bridium 400 machine.

You can find more detailed information on all the above technologies and much more on our Techniline watch platform.

So what about Sirris ?

A few years back, 3D printers were sold yet rarely used for they offered no specific market benefit.
Today, it transpires that the technology's success cannot be limited to simply owning a machine. You first need to choose the right machine, based on multiple criteria. You also need to create an entire ecosystem including features such as:

  • digitisation techniques that facilitate data capture from existing products
  • efficient implementation of 3D CAD tools
  • access to a wide range of service providers for part and prototype production
  • extensive application knowledge
  • familiarity with 3D printing in a business environment
  • knowledge of the great diversity of available machines and their performance

Whatever your project, Sirris can offer you objective and neutral advice on associated aspects and help you to integrate additive manufacturing within your own business.

Share