Californian rapid prototyping service provider, GoProto has launched a new 3D printing service called 3DElastroPrint, which specializes in producing “rubber-like” parts.
The firm’s latest manufacturing solution is based on a flexible, lightweight Thermoplastic Polyamide (TPA) that’s been produced by Evonik and optimized for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) systems. Evonik’s TPA features a low density of 1.01cm³ and Shore A hardness of 90, making it well-suited to prototyping and producing functional plastic parts such as sports equipment, automobile components and end-of-arm tooling.
“We researched this elastomer from Evonik and instantly recognized the massive market potential and its ability to help us provide customers with production-grade parts with no tooling and all of the benefits of 3D printing,” said Jesse Lea, President & CEO of GoProto.
“We’re not going after parts we can already produce with conventional methods inexpensively; we are going for the things that haven’t been addressed well before.”
3DElastroPrint’s TPA material
TPA is a flexible, lightweight construction material that exhibits a high level of chemical and abrasion resistance as well as tear strength, making it a good material for creating lattices or harnesses. When used alongside HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 4200 series, in particular, it’s capable of yielding a variety of high-quality parts for prototyping or end-use purposes.
Through its new service, GoProto is now deploying HP and Evonik’s TPA to enable its clients to create components with complex geometries at a cost-effective price-point. The firm claims that the elastomer opens a range of new printing applications to its clients, including sports equipment, wearables, footwear, protective gear and eyewear.
In general, printing low quantities of automotive parts can be challenging, due to the advanced tooling needed to achieve the thin walls and intricate geometries necessary from soft materials. Using these new TPA elastomers and MJF, GoProto’s clients can now create parts with large undercuts and trapped volumes, without causing them to become unstable.
End-of-arm tooling can also be difficult to produce because there’s little room for adaptation or compromise with prototype materials. This type of tooling often comes in amorphous shapes, and the material’s properties can dramatically affect its performance, but using GoProto’s new service clients can now engineer latticed, topology-optimized parts.
“We have had customers make ducts and bellows and footwear, athletic equipment, wearables and harnesses/connector parts,” said Lea. “The combination of production quality material properties like high wear resistance, energy return, longevity and lightweight continues to impress at every application.”
GoProto in the 3D printing industry
Founded in 2016, GoProto has manufacturing facilities in California, San Diego, Melbourne, and Australia. The company provides 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal and injection molding services amongst others, and specializes in on-demand manufacturing for clients in the medical, aerospace and automotive industries.
GoProto was one of the first service bureaus to adopt HP’s MJF systems, and its partnership with HP provides its customers with an easy way to access efficient, cost-effective 3D printed parts. The company has installed six machines at its San Diego and California factories, and three in Melbourne, which produce parts for clients using PA11, PA12, TPU and now TPA photopolymers.
In recent years, GoProto has applied its services to a wide range of projects. Earlier this year, for instance, the firm teamed up with design and engineering specialist Function Factory to develop a number of 3D printed barriers and guards. The project ensured the safety of high-risk bus drivers that play a key role in the Seattle Children’s Hospital shuttle program.
HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology
Recently, an increasing number of companies have turned to 3D printing service providers, as a cheap and effective means of accessing HP’s MJF technology, without having to acquire a machine.
Last month 3D printing service bureau 3DPRINTUK invested in HP’s MJF 5210 machine as part of a £1 million expansion to develop its 3D printing capabilities. Since installation, the firm has utilized the system for batch production applications, while also providing customers with bespoke printed polymer parts.
Belgian software and 3D printing service provider Materialise, meanwhile, announced the expansion of its materials portfolio in 2019. The firm’s expanded range reportedly made it the first to adopt BASF’s new TPU, which was specifically designed for HP’s MJF 5200 series of 3D printers.
Elsewhere, additive manufacturing service bureau Protolabs has added HP’s MJF to its 3D printing technologies in Europe, following a successful US launch. For the past two years, Protolabs has been able to offer four industrial 3D printing technologies, that are capable of producing plastic, metal and elastomeric components in as little as one day.
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Feature image shows the 3DElastroPrint after ducting. Photo via GoProto.