One of the trends in 3D printing for 2017 is the advance of materials science and the increasing range of 3D printable materials.
During his presentation at Formnext last year, 3D printing industry analyst Terry Wohlers highlighted the expiration of patents around 3D printing with advanced engineering plastics, such as PEEK as an important area of development.
Costs cut from €1,000 to €100
Expiry of these patents means that, slowly, new 3D printers capable of working with these materials are arriving in the market. 3D Printing Industry reported that during this years CES event Shanghai 3D printing manufacturers Intamsys announced their FUNMAT HT 3D printer for PEEK. We’ve also looked at Italian company Roboze who can 3D print high-performance thermopolymers, including PEEK and ULTEM.
While new 3D printers are beginning to offer the ability to work with these advanced materials, cost of the feedstock has remained prohibitive. 3D Printing Industry recently met one company who are working on a solution to this problem. 3Devo explain,
Buying PEEK granulate will only set you back by around 100 Euros per kg, as opposed to a filament spool that will cost you to the tune of 1000 Euros per spool.
The industrial desktop filament extruder
Based in The Netherlands, 3Devo are the makers of the Next 1.0 Industrial Desktop Filament Extruder and claim they can, “make filament out of almost anything.” The 3Devo 3D printing filament extruder on display during Formnext certainly had a footprint that lived up to this claim.
The company have now announced the results of testing the Next 1.0 Industrial Desktop Filament Extruder with PEEK. The research took one and a half years to undertake and involved, “using 2 cleaning compounds as transition materials.” The company explain the process further,
Switching from PLA to PEEK presented an unique challenge: building up the temperature inside the Advanced Level extruder to PEEK’s high melting point of 343 degrees. First, we slowly raised the temperature from 170 to 300 degrees with the first transition material. Once temperatures had crossed 300 degrees, we switched to the second transition material, and worked on reaching 390 degrees.
Tailored 3D printing filament for research institutions
Specifications from the 3Devo website show the machine can operate at temperatures up to 450C and is capable of processing 0.7 kg per hour. Filament can be produced in the 0.5 mm – 3 mm range. The ability to produce customized 3D printing filament in smaller volumes is particularly appealing to academic institutions. From conversations with researchers and given the often secretive nature of academic research there is a desire to bring the ability to produce 3D printing filament in-house. However, current options are limited and the machinery required substantially more bulky.
3Devo report that, “Working with PEEK has presented interesting challenges, chief among which involved extruding it in the correct temperature range, while factoring in internal pressure, and without affecting the material’s crystallinity. It has been a good start, and our first trials turned out to be easier than expected.”
The research looks promising and we understand the company are also looking at piezoelectric powders.
In March 3Devo will be at RapidPro in Veldhoven, The Netherlands. 3D Printing Industry are looking forward to hearing more from the company, and would welcome the opportunity to spend some time testing the Next 1.0 Industrial Desktop Filament Extruder for ourselves.