Dutch multinational chemical company Royal DSM has partnered with Ohio-based JuggerBot 3D, a 3D printing engineering and consulting firm, to explore the potential of fused granulate fabrication (FGF) technology. The collaboration will lead to the development of pellet 3D printers and materials, intended for production applications.
Citing an increase in demand for large-scale additive manufacturing, DSM and JuggerBot seek to leverage the advantages of pellet materials. FGF has the potential to meet these performance and size demands, while overcoming the constraints of some other 3D printing technologies. Hugo da Silva, VP Additive Manufacturing at DSM, explains:
“The need for pellet materials and printers that are able to produce large-scale applications is evident.”
“Working side by side with innovative printer manufacturers like JuggerBot 3D allows us to create material solutions while ensuring manufacturers have access to reliable machines.”
What is Fused Granulate Fabrication?
FGF 3D printing can be associated with the fused filament fabrication (FFF) process in that it replaces filament with chopped, pelletized feedstock as a material source. FGF is capable of converting raw material directly to the print bed, thus removing the “middle man” of FFF technology. With filler rations of up to 50 percent, DSM and JuggerBot believe that FGF can meet the strength, stiffness, and heat resistance required to create large structural applications of 3D printing.
Indeed, FGF is particularly suited towards large-format 3D printing compared to FFF technology. Although FFF can potentially be used to create large structures, it is often held back by its limited extrusion rate, due to the filament feed system. FGF technology overcomes these limitations as it is capable of extruding high volumes of materials through its inherent screw-extrusion system. As such, various 3D printer OEMs are introducing FGF machines and compatible printheads to market, however it is still nowhere near as widely used as FFF.
In a 2018 paper by Michigan Technological University’s (MTU) Aubrey Woern and Joshua Pearce, they explain that FGF is held back by “the accessibility of low-cost pelletizers and choppers.” Regardless, FGF has proven its potential to be a more environmentally friendly and economical method of 3D printing.
Developing FGF technology
In May 2019, DSM announced a partnership with large-scale 3D printer supplier CEAD to pursue the development of new feedstock, tooling and end-use applications using FGF technology. The partnership involved DSM’s purchase of a 6-axis robotic 3D printer from CEAD for the purpose of material development and profile optimization. Now working with JuggerBot, DSM aims to explore “the untapped potential of FGF printing,” in order to meet demand for large-structural 3D printing applications among manufacturers.
The development program, open to companies interested in FGF printing, will leverage JuggerBot’s new P3-44 pellet 3D printer alongside DSM’s Arnite AM8527 (G) material, a glass-reinforced PET product for fused granulate fabrication additive manufacturing. The material is designed as a cost-effective solution for tools and large size structural components for a number industries including automotive and construction.
JuggerBot’s P3-44 FGF 3D printer is equipped with a 915 mm x 1,220 mm x 1,220 mm build volume and is part of the company’s Tradesman series of pellet extrusion systems. DSM provided its material expertise to aid JuggerBot in the development of the system; DSM claims that the P3-44 is capable of producing parts up to 200 times faster than other machines.
“We’re addressing the largest barriers to the adoption of 3D printing with fused granulate fabrication. The P3-44 is truly a reliable, industrial-grade machine that allows users to tap into a plethora of production materials and scale their additive manufacturing efforts. We’re thrilled to further align our process expertise with DSM’s material expertise and serve as the go-to team for companies looking to take 3D printing to the next level,” explains Dan Fernback, Co-Founder at JuggerBot 3D.
DSM was one of the first partners to purchase JuggerBot’s P3-44 3D printer, and plans to add more pellet products to its selection of 3D printing technologies. Both companies previously collaborated to launch a trial program in March 2019, inviting companies to evaluate engineering-grade materials from DSM in a JuggerBot 3D printer. “Materials or printers alone are not sufficient for OEMs to adopt the technology. That is why a smoothly running ecosystem is so critical for additive manufacturing to be accepted on the production floor,” adds da Silva.
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Featured image shows two individuals inside JuggerBot’s P3-44 FGF 3D printer. Photo via DSM.