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Plastics & Elastomers

3D Printing Material and Process Technologies to Watch!

Donald Rosato – Oct 26, 2020

TAGS:  3D Printing       Part Design & Manufacturing 

3D Printing Material & Process Technologies 3D printing parts manufacturing is definitely coming of age in a highly disruptive to traditional manufacturing way. Global expenditures on desktop and industrial printers have grown from $18 billion in 2019 to an expected $21 billion by 2020.

Rapidly maturing 3D printed parts are moving forward from once exclusive late 1970s start with prototype models into end-use applications at present, such as:

  • Athletic shoes
  • Car bodies, and
  • Rocket engine components

Manufacturers from across all industrial segments are expanding their 3D printing programs based on:

  • New, high-speed process developments
  • Software advances, and
  • Tailored materials improvement

Simply stated, 3D printing is now easier to implement on the manufacturing floor alongside traditional industrial processes in an increasingly cost-effective manner.

Over the next 3-5 years, it will cross the threshold from advanced to conventional and enter mainstream manufacturing. It will develop in parallel against a continuing backdrop of increased custom, just-in-time end-use products.

  Autodesk High Speed Inkjet 3D Printer
Autodesk High Speed Inkjet 3D Printer

Let’s explore the recent developments in 3D printing material & process technologies.

DSM’s PolyButylene Terephthalate (PBT) Powder for 3D Printing Process

DSM has developed an industry first PolyButylene Terephthalate (PBT) powder for the 3D printing process Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). The features of this powder include:

  • Fast to print
  • High temperature resistant
  • Recyclable for sustainable manufacturing, and
  • Extremely easy to print compared to other SLS powders, such as PolyAmide or Nylon 6 (PA6)

Wohlers Selective Laser Sintering 3D Printing Process Graphic
Wohlers Selective Laser Sintering 3D Printing Process Graphic

Ford’s 3D Printed Automotive Light Housings

Ford Europe's 3D Printed Automotive  Light Housing Base (L, behind Housing Cover) Automotive companies are looking for the right manufacturing technology to produce small series and customized cars, as well as ways to quickly develop new products.

For functional parts, such as automotive light housings, they need materials that provide the part the right set of properties that include:

  • Vibration and temperature resistance
  • Durability
  • Stiffness
  • High dimensional stability, and
  • Easy to 3D print

It is very cost effective for small series and customized car production.

Covestro’s 3D Printed Shock Absorber with High Degree of Functionality

Covestro's 3D Printed Complex Shock AbsorberCovestro has developed a 3D printed prototype shock absorber. The complex part marks another milestone on the way from the creation of individual prototypes to the integration of various functions and mass production.

In addition to its high degree of functionality, the unique feature of the shock absorber is the production of the individual parts from three different products and with the aid of three different manufacturing processes.

  • The outer spring of the 40 x 7-centimeter part is made of powdered Thermoplastic PolyUrethane (TPU). It was shaped layer by layer using selective laser sintering and is notable for its elasticity and high abrasion resistance.

  • The adjusting screw inside the shock absorber has to be very strong and hard. For this reason, it is made of filaments of Covestro's robust PolyCarbonate (PC) material, using Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

  • The air chamber in the interior is created from a liquid PolyURethane (PUR) resin. The digital light processing method as in this case has proven itself for such components with filigree structures.

Carbon3D’s M1 Printer & CLIP Process

A key new 3D printing process to keep a close watch on is Carbon3D’s M1. It is capable of printing parts a hundred times faster than traditional Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) or fused deposition printers, with mechanically tough engineering grade plastics plus superior surface finish.

Carbon3D offers their system via a unique subscription model, starting at $60,000, allowing customers to select from seven, internally developed specialty resins. They have developed a proprietary Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology that employs superbly tuned light and oxygen that creates parts from a resin pool, versus traditional FFF, fused deposition techniques that involve layer by layer part build up.

Carbon3D's M1 Printer (L), CLIP Process (R)
Carbon3D's M1 Printer (L), CLIP Process (R)

End-users have produced under-the-hood and interior automotive parts, as well as medical devices, utilized in high mechanical stress environments including:

  • Ford
  • BMW, and
  • Johnson & Johnson

The Carbon3D M1 process significantly shortens product manufacturing timeframes.


3D printing plastic materials find their major use in:

  • Prototyping parts
  • Molds/tools,
  • Manufacture of standard, straight forward fixtures and jigs.

They have very limited traditional end-use applications.

More 3D printing plastic material development is needed by major resin and specialty compound suppliers to expand the range of options available. In this regard more partnerships between plastic material and 3D equipment suppliers need to take place.

MakerBot Triaxial 3D Printing Machine
MakerBot Triaxial 3D Printing Machine

Potentially utilizing 3D printing plastic prototypes as true emerging end-use application development routes will bring resin and 3D equipment suppliers together. Further supply chain adaptation by both parties is the key!

Commercially Available Polymer Grades by 3D Printing Suppliers

3D Printing ResinsCheck Out Plastic Materials Developments in 3D Printing Technology

Explore the current global state of 3D plastics by our expert Donald Rosato and major innovations of additive manufacturing/3D printing such as:
  • High-performing Nylon & Co-Polyester 3D Printing Filaments
  • First developmental 3D printed PEEK automotive part
  • Weight & Cost Savings with 3D printed parts for the aircraft

» Learn More About the Polymers & Processes Used in Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing

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