Materials

Infinite Material Solutions launches new water-soluble thermoplastic for 3D printed microporous parts

3D printing materials supplier Infinite Material Solutions has launched a new water-soluble 3D printing filament that enables the creation of lightweight foam parts resembling a sponge.

Claimed to be the “world’s first extrudable thermoplastic with a water-soluble, co-continuous, microporous morphology”, Caverna PP is the first in Infinite Material Solution’s forthcoming Caverna material line which each contain a blend of two soluble and insoluble materials.

According to the company, its Caverna filaments could enable a new level of design freedom for applications within filtration, separators, footwear, and personal protective equipment (PPE). 

“With so many breakthroughs happening on a regular basis, additive manufacturing is an exciting space to participate in,” said Larry Doerr, Chief Operating Officer at Infinite Material Solutions. 

“I’m extremely proud of our team for once again creating a material that stands out and redefines what’s possible with FFF – and I’m excited to watch the industry take Caverna PP’s unique capabilities and run with them.”

Caverna PP 3D printing support filament. Photo via Infinite Material Solutions.
Caverna PP 3D printing support filament. Photo via Infinite Material Solutions.

Caverna PP

Using a water-soluble filament not only reduces the cost and time of downstream post-processing but also grants a greater degree of design freedom, as the designer is not required to take into account manual support removal processes. 

Infinite Material Solutions’ latest 3D printing filament is designed for use in FFF 3D printing systems, and is the first material launched from the company’s Caverna filament range. 

Caverna PP is comprised of a unique blend of two polymers: a soluble material removable through dissolution, and insoluble polypropylene. After dissolution occurs, the water-soluble phase of the process leaves behind a network of microporous, interconnected channels inside the build material. This makes the printed part lightweight, soft, and porous, similar to a sponge.

In addition to new applications with the filtrations, footwear, and PPE sectors, Infinite Material Solutions is also particularly interested in the potential of Caverna PP to create porous tooling for the production of vacuum-formed parts. 

According to the firm, Caverna PP’s ultrafine, highly controlled distribution of tiny pores between 1-4µ could allow for consistent airflow in order to eliminate the need to drill holes and maximize material distribution. 

After dissolution, the water-soluble phase leaves behind a cave-like network of interconnected channels inside the build material, making it light, soft, and porous. Photo via Infinite Material Solutions.
After dissolution, the water-soluble phase leaves behind a cave-like network of interconnected channels inside the build material, making it light, soft, and porous. Photo via Infinite Material Solutions.

Infinite’s water-soluble filaments

Infinite Material Solutions seems to have identified a gap in the market for water-soluble support materials that complement high-performance 3D printed parts.

Caverna PP is the latest in the firm’s water-soluble support filament portfolio, which also consists of AquaSys 120 and AquaSys 180. These materials are designed to be co-extruded alongside popular build materials ranging from PLA to PEEK and are washed away by tap water to leave behind a finished part. 

Caverna PP is compatible with AquaSys 120 as a two-in-one simple post-processing step, offering greater design freedom and ease. Users can simply print the part and leave it to dissolve to achieve a complete build with a microporous structure.

Launched in November last year, AquaSys 180 features excellent temperature stability and is able to withstand atmospheric temperatures of up to 180 degrees celsius. The filament’s formulation is patent-protected and is compatible with a wide range of build materials. 

Industrial 3D part supported with AquaSys 180. Photo via Infinite Material Solutions.
Industrial 3D printed part supported with AquaSys 180. Photo via Infinite Material Solutions.

Soluble support materials for 3D printing

Removing supports during post-processing can be a time-intensive and costly task. In addition to Infinite Material Solutions, several other parties have also developed 3D printing support offerings to make this process quicker and less wasteful. 

For instance, 3D printer and materials manufacturer EnvisionTEC and Arkema subsidiary Sartomer teamed up to develop a water-soluble resin for use with its proprietary CDLM 3D printing platform. The resin integrates Sartomer’s UV-curable resin technology and is suitable for 3D printing molds across a range of industrial applications.

More recently, a research team from the University of Southern California and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have been working on a reusable support that could reduce the amount of wasted material during FDM 3D printing by up to 35 percent. The novel reusable device is composed of a flexible pin array that is specifically optimized for use with low-cost FDM machines.

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Featured image shows after dissolution, the water-soluble phase leaves behind a cave-like network of interconnected channels inside the build material, making it light, soft, and porous. Photo via Infinite Material Solutions.

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