3D Printing Industry is taking a close look at resin 3D printing with a series of articles from experts in this specific area of additive manufacturing. We’ll be publishing the results of our Spotlight on Resin 3D Printing survey to wrap up the series in the coming weeks.
Today, Nexa3D’s Izhar Medalsy and Kevin McAlea, respectively Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operating Officer look at the State of Resin 3D Printing.
Medalsy holds a Ph.D. and MSc in Physical Chemistry and McAlea holds a BSc and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering – both are well placed to provide a technical perspective on this topic.
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3DPI: How have you seen resin-based 3D printing develop in recent years?
Izhar Medalsy: I see progress on multiple fronts, the first one is a much deeper understanding of the relationship between optics, hardware, materials, and print performance. Advancing the performance interface technology (aka membranes) to eliminate peel-off forces coupled with continuous improvements in LCD technology which opens the printability aperture by delivering higher resolution and enhanced UV transmission. Couple that with integrated sensors that enables active monitoring and what you get is a printer that can print orders of magnitude faster, using a wider range of photopolymers without any compromise to accuracy or yield.
The other important dimension is software. The ability to bring a higher level of workflow automation including design decision support, file processing, and intuitive guidance enables more users to gain access to 3D printing while lowering the required expertise barriers needed to achieve successful prints the first time. Advances with fleet management and other important MES components brings 3D printing to the production floor allowing customers to better track and inspect parts along the production chain.
Finally, we are all benefiting from significant advancements in photochemistry which opens the aperture to a wider range of functional polymers materials that can even surpass the performances of traditional thermoplastics in certain applications. What’s more, as our photoplastic 3D printers evolve in their ability to manage higher viscosity and higher temp materials it substantially expands the reach and addressable applications into very demanding auto, aero, and consumer product applications.
3DPI: What do you consider the next technology hurdles for photopolymer-based 3D printing to overcome?
Izhar Medalsy: Time is the only thing money can’t buy, so the need for orders of magnitude higher speed and greater productivity remains our primary purpose along with broadening the range of functional and economical materials. These are not easy challenges to overcome. A natural byproduct of faster photopolymeric 3D printing is heat due to the exothermic reaction of the printing process. Another photopolymer challenge is the UV degradation of the parts and weatherability over time. Also, challenges of working with higher viscosity materials will not just disappear. Further innovation is required to reduce the forces that are exerted on parts during the print process. Advancements in thermal and light management could further expand the printability envelope and first print success of photopolymer contributing to a more sustainable process.
3DPI: What applications of vat photopolymerization do you see as under-developed by the market, and why?
Izhar Medalsy: There is a clear need to expand the availability of hybrid solutions for additive manufacturing. By hybrid I’m referring to a combination of additive and traditional manufacturing for series production. There are some good initiatives along those lines, but I think there are also big opportunities in finding a synergetic approach between traditional technologies and photopolymer 3D printing.
3DPI: Where are opportunities for materials development in regards to vat photopolymerization Technology?
Izhar Medalsy: For us at Nexa3D sustainability in everything we do represents the biggest and boldest opportunity. I am also encouraged by promising initiatives that incorporate biodegradable feedstock, for example, but there is a huge need to scale up those initial efforts.
3DPI: What LOCTITE resins are validated on your printing platforms?
Kevin McAlea: At Nexa3D, we value the power of an abundant material ecosystem, and we work with a variety of material suppliers to provide the broadest range of material options to our customers. Specific to LOCTITE resins, we have validated General Purpose: Pro410 Prototyping & Modeling Material. Additionally, Functional Materials: x4PP 05: Tough; Semi-rigid, xABS 3843: Rigid; Durable, xPEEK, 147: Strong; Hi-Temp, xFlex, 475: Elastomeric, Medium Soft; with good energy return.
3DPI: What applications are end-users leveraging using LOCTITE 3D resins on your platform?
Kevin McAlea: Wide range of general-purpose industrial design, concept modeling, prototyping, as well as production runs of complex, functional parts. Additionally, applications like jigs, fixtures, connectors, tools and molds that support traditional manufacturing are also common.
3DPI: Can you explain the value that LOCTITE 3D resins bring to your platform? How does this complement your existing/ proprietary material portfolio?
LOCTITE has a broad portfolio of prototyping, functional, and specialty materials that address a wide range of applications. Their materials significantly expand the use cases that we are able to serve with our high-speed printers. In addition, they respond rapidly to specific customer needs and requirements and can deliver customized materials quickly, which is often essential in manufacturing applications.
3DPI: Have you worked with LOCTITE to develop customized materials? If so, can you describe the collaboration process?
Kevin McAlea: Yes, we recently partnered with Henkel to help a French telemedicine medtech start up, WeMed produce the world’s first additively manufactured connected stethoscope in a matter of weeks. Working with Henkel, we were able to develop suitable color-matched materials in about a month. WeMed was able to proudly showcase this product at this year’s CES Conference. More information on this collaboration can be found here.
3DPI: What LOCTITE resins have seen the most interest/use on your platforms? Any insight into why this might be?
Kevin McAlea: A couple of examples come to mind. A fast, economic general-purpose material that enables robust prototyping and modeling. Also, materials that are engineered to be durable and perform as good or better than thermoplastics like Polypropylene & ABS.
As customers scale up to make additively manufactured production parts, there is a need to close the gap and either meet or exceed the reference standards of injection molding. Most performance plastics parts are made in ABS & PP and their variants. By combining similar performance materials with Nexa3D’s high throughput printers, we are getting close to and in some cases exceeding the economics as well as mechanical performance of injection molded parts.
3DPI: How do you anticipate your printer platforms that leverage LOCTITE resins will grow in 2022?
Kevin McAlea: Some focus areas that leverage custom resin development targeted at scaling up production parts include the following. Specialized materials that address particular end-use requirements, such as FR and ESD. Patterns and tooling that support traditional manufacturing, especially for investment casting. Durable materials to offset PP and ABS in a wide range of engineered components with enhanced durability and weatherability.
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Featured image shows Nexa3D at Formnext 2021. Photo via Michael Petch.