3D Systems' Scott Cost Discusses What Goes Into the Production of SLS 3D Printing Materials

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3D Systems is known for many things, with long experience in SLS 3D printers and 3D printing materials being among them. Those materials involve a great deal of work to develop, with most people having no idea what goes into the behind-the-scenes complexities. Each material is highly specialized and carefully developed for strength, for elongation, for light weight, or other properties necessary to certain applications, such as for recent work with Emirates Airlines. 3D Systems introduced a new SLS 3D printing system last month and with it, several new materials that added to the company’s growing catalog.

For more insight into the development of those materials as well as the company’s other SLS 3D printing materials, we heard from Scott Cost, Director SLS Product Management for 3D Systems.

What new SLS materials have been developed by 3D Systems and what applications do they have?

Scott Cost

“Market insight indicated that there was a need for aluminum-filled plastic parts can be used for parts that need to have a low weight, but still need metallic properties, such as knobs, handles, certain automotive parts and consumer electronics. Combining flexibility with durability, the ProX DuraForm AF Plus was developed with this in mind and underwent rigorous testing. We at 3D Systems want to ensure that each material is optimized for each printer to produce parts with consistent mechanical properties and surface quality.

In addition to aluminium-filled plastic, customers especially from the automotive industry requested a true black-colored production-grade material that produces parts ready to go with minimal post-processing, so without any coating requirements. EX Black has been developed which is a Nylon 11 material that has a much better elongation and impact resistance than Nylon 12.

The toughest material to develop, in my view, was the FR1200 that we produced for Emirates Airlines. This required the full process of certification. In aerospace, materials that are flame retardant are essential, and each airline follows rigorous certification processes for any part that is fitted within an airplane. FR1200 is FAR 25.853 compliant, which is the flame retardant standard for aerospace.”

What kind of testing processes do you deploy at 3D Systems to deliver production-grade materials?

“It depends on the intended application for each material. End use interior parts need to have flexibility, durability and impact resistance while assembly jigs and fixtures need strength and rigidity. We strive to offer materials that can cover all additive manufacturing needs.

For ProX DuraForm AF Plus, we ran thousands of sample parts to dial in the proper settings. These settings are then embedded in a configuration file that the printer uses when DuraForm AF Plus is loaded in the machine. This guarantees that the wide range of applications and geometries meet the rigorous quality standards needed for production-grade additive manufacturing.

EX Black, when used for automotive interior parts or consumer goods parts, has to be able to withstand continuous impact and exposure to the elements without failing, and it does.

For EX Black, we needed to address the issue that Nylon 11 is more difficult to run consistently for most printers. This is another example of where we at 3D Systems have taken the time to optimize settings, to fully test the material and to validate the mechanical properties so that when EX Black is running on a 3D Systems printer, it is delivering production-grade parts with the strength and durability needed to meet the demands of end users.

The FR1200 went through rigorous testing to pass the Emirates certification process. These tests included durability and impact resistance, but also more in-depth certifications to ensure that the parts are flame retardant. It also passed tests for AITM smoke density and toxicity requirements and has a UL certification for consumer goods. Furthermore, Emirates has a Form 1 certification validating that the seatback part design is approved for aircraft use.

The entire process of certification for FR1200 took almost 12 months, and each certification has to be approved by a different governing body. As with our other materials, thousands of test parts were built to ensure a consistent quality and flame retardancy. Each build produced dozens of parts and had to have a 100% adherence to the FAR and AITM specifications. If a part failed, the settings had to be reconfigured and the consistency of powder was re-evaluated until each batch passed. The Form 1 certification process is quite arduous as well. The Form 1 certification has to be completed on a part-by-part basis, a process that can take 6 months for each part to be approved. 3D Systems attention to testing and validating each of their materials is essential to delivering quality materials for each and every part, spanning the wide variety of geometries and applications for which additive manufacturing is used.  Without the tightly monitored testing, the certification process could take two years or longer to complete.”

Why is it so important to choose an additive manufacturing supplier that has the expertise and inclination to develop and test new materials?

“Engineers are constantly looking for improvements and iteration to achieve better results and respond to ever changing requirements. This is why 3D Systems has spent the last two years developing new materials, designed to satisfy our customers’ demands for elongation, flexibility, impact strength, rigidity, temperature resistance or flame retardancy.

3D Systems has put the time and effort into making sure each material delivers the quality expected from each part. We have done the hard work for our customers, and they appreciate that.

Ultimately, it saves time and money when you know that the materials have been fully tested by our experts.”

Why is it more cost-efficient to develop production-grade materials that can be used for both prototyping and end use parts?

“The majority of additive manufacturing suppliers focus only on meeting prototyping needs because the material demands for strong physical properties are less rigorous. Choosing production-grade materials is more cost efficient than only serving prototyping needs because the parts last longer without failing and that durability over time saves money and effort:

  • Smaller companies can now offer true manufacturing solutions at a lower cost of entry
  • True production-grade materials allow customization of parts without having to purchase tooling, saving money and time
  • You choose: as we optimize each material for the printer, the parts can be used for either prototyping or production. Consistent part quality and surface finish require minimal post-processing – no more dyeing or washing parts

Customers no longer need to switch materials based on if the application is for prototyping or production.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more, get in touch – we are here to support: www.3dsystems.com/contact”

There is a great deal of materials expertise at 3D Systems, and that expertise has resulted in wide adoption of its materials and machines in aerospace, automotive, healthcare and other verticals. The company is continually – and ambitiously – innovating, and as Cost has described, no materials are put on the market without a great deal of time and effort. Knowing how much time and effort does go into the development of materials for demanding applications puts a customer’s mind at ease – time is taken to make sure that every application is approached with high-quality materials.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Images: 3D Systems]

Successful Surgery Leads to First 3D Printed Shoulder Replacement in Croatia

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A 60-year-old man in Croatia had been suffering from an infection in his shoulder, resulting in him losing a great deal of bone mass and most of the function in the joint. His level of function, in fact, was down to about 30% – but after a successful surgery, he’s expected to regain 80% of his shoulder’s original function. In addition to regaining the use of his shoulder, the man also made history, becoming the first person in Croatia to receive a 3D printed shoulder joint.

The surgical team that implanted the 3D printed shoulder was led by Nikola Matejčić, MD at the Clinic for Orthopaedics in Lovran.

“The latest technological advancements in design of osseointegrating implant segments were used,” Dr. Matejčić explained. “The implant was created using a technology of additive manufacturing, namely the Trabecular Titanium 3D printing technology which represents a revolution in production of medical implants.”

Trabecular Titanium is a proprietary 3D printing biomaterial developed by Italian company Lima Corporate. Its structure mimics that of trabecular bone, and its porosity enhances cell migration and vascularization, facilitating the transport of oxygen, nutrients, ions and bone inducing factors, encouraging the formation of new bone. 3D printed using Electron Beam Melting (EBM) technology, Trabecular Titanium components can be fabricated in any geometry, meaning that it’s easy to create patient-specific implants.

The surgery took about three hours and the patient is now recovering nicely and is expected to be discharged by the end of the week. The operation was a collaborative effort, said Dr. Matejčić, with the Faculty of Medicine in Rijeka, the Clinical Hospital Centre in Rijeka and its Department of Radiology, and the Centre for Biomedical Modeling and Innovations in Medicine all working together.

While this surgery was the first in the country involving the implantation of a 3D printed shoulder joint, it wasn’t the first to utilize 3D printing for this clinic. At the beginning of this year, the clinic implanted a 3D printed pelvic joint, and is impressed with the ability of the technology to repair highly damaged joints and restore normal function.

“The 3D printing technology really marks a new age in orthopaedics and medicine in general,” said Branko Šestan, MD, Director of the Clinic for Orthopaedics. “Up until a few years ago, this would have been considered science fiction, as we’ve never thought an entire joint could be reconstructed this way.”

It’s true that until recently, few people would believe that a major joint could be replaced by a 3D printed one, much less that the 3D printed replacement would allow function comparable to that of a normal healthy joint. Now, however, these stories are everywhere. A woman in France had her shoulder restored through 3D printing not long ago, and similar implants have been made in the Netherlands, in China and elsewhere. As 3D printing continues to approach the point at which it’s considered mainstream in the medical field, it’s stories like these that encourage the general public to have faith that this technology really is the future of medicine, so they can be aware of options that can help them.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: Total Croatia News / Images: Novilist]

3D-printed satellite imager design

Description

Weirdly organic in appearance, this prototype is the first outcome of an ESA project to develop, manufacture and demonstrate an optical instrument for space with 3D printing.

A two-mirror telescope derived from the European-made Ozone Monitoring Instrument now flying on NASA’s Aura satellite, it was not so much designed as grown, with the instrument’s design requirements put through ‘topology optimisation’ software to come up with the best possible shape.

This prototype was developed for ESA by a consortium led by OHB System in Germany, with TNO in the Netherlands – original designer of Aura’s version – Fraunhofer IFAM, IABG and Materialise in Germany and SRON, the Netherlands Institute for Space Research.

This first ‘breadboard’ prototype has been printed in liquid photopolymer plastic, then spray-painted. The final version would be printed in metal instead. The project is intended to culminate in testing a working instrument in a simulated space environment.

The project is being backed through ESA’s General Support Technology Programme, to hone promising technologies to be ready for space and global markets.

New SLM 3D printing technique can produce strong, ductile stainless steel parts

Dec 11, 2017 | By Benedict

A joint research team from the UK, Sweden, and China has developed a new stainless steel SLM 3D printing technique that results in high levels of strength and ductility. The process could be used to make heavy-duty parts for the aerospace and automotive sectors.

While users of plastic 3D printers have found plenty of success printing rubbery and stretchy objects using flexible 3D printer filaments, achieving ductility in the metal 3D printing world has proven rather more difficult.

The general outlook seems to be that one can’t additively manufacture a metal part that has high levels of both strength and ductility, since one trait normally compromises the other. Strong 3D printed metal parts therefore tend to be rigid and brittle—fine for many applications, but not for all.

But sometimes the key to unlocking a breakthrough is collaboration, and researchers from three universities across the world—the University of Birmingham, UK; Stockholm University, Sweden; and Zhejiang University, China—recently came together to develop a new metal 3D printing process that overcomes the additive manufacturing strength-ductility bottleneck.

Their new Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technique, which also enables the printing of “previously inaccessible shapes,” offers an ultrafast cooling rate—1000°C per second to 100 million °C per second—which leads to some highly desirable mechanical results, which could make 3D printed stainless steels a more attractive proposition to manufacturers of cars and aircraft, amongst other things.

The technique’s rapid cooling rate, which could not have been achieved with a metal production process besides additive manufacturing, puts the metal into a non-equilibrium state. This can produce microstructures like a sub-micro-sized dislocation network, which in turn results in desirable mechanical properties like strength and ductility.

Ultimately, this dislocation network means greater flexibility for engineers who need complex metal shapes that aren’t necessarily rigid or brittle.

“This work gives researchers a brand new tool to design new alloy systems with ultra-mechanical properties,” says Dr. Leifeng Liu, lead author, who recently moved to the University of Birmingham from Stockholm University as an AMCASH research fellow. “It also helps metal 3D printing to gain access into the field where high mechanical properties are required—like structural parts in aerospace and automotive.”

Liu’s University of Birmingham team—Dr. Yu-Lung Chiu, Dr. Ji Zou, and Dr. Jing Wu, all of whom are part of the university’s School of Metallurgy and Materials—were responsible for establishing a micro and nano material testing system inside electron microscopes, allowing the researchers to analyze the performance of the 3D printed metal sample during mechanical tests.

This testing system reportedly helped the researchers understand the physical mechanisms at play, and to identify effective microstructural features of the printed metals.

The researchers’ study, “Dislocation network in additive manufactured steel breaks strength–ductility trade-off,” has been published in Materials Today.

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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