In the previous part of this series I explained how the Figure 4 non-contact membrane technology is able to solve the problem of slow printing time and poor surface finish. But it’s one thing to build beautiful parts fast, but its quite another to have these parts stand the test of time in a production environment. Only when you solve both these problems you can truly say that 3D printing can begin to replace vacuum casting and augment injection molding.
Recently 3D Systems launched a number of production grade materials. In this part I will go into details of one particular material – the Figure 4 PRO-BLK 10. The “PRO” in the material name signifies “production” and “BLK” stands for the color black. “10” is a variant, more like a version number.
This material has thermo-plastic like mechanical properties and exceptionally long term environmental stability. We have tested this material indoors and outdoors for as long as seven years. Of course, we didn’t wait for seven years. There are standard accelerated time tests which simulate the passage of time. Here are some key mechanical properties.
- Tensile Strength, Ultimate: 63 MPa
- Elongation at break: 12%
- Tensile modulus: 2320 MPa
- Impact strength (notched Izod): 24 J/m
- Heat Deflection Temperature @ 0.455 MPa: 70 °C
With a heat deflection temperature of 70 decrees Centigrade and an elongation at break of 12% this material is perfect for production parts. Also, the nice thing about this material is that it doesn’t fracture in a tensile test. It test strip necks and then snaps like a proper thermo-plastic, which is the expectation of plastic parts produced using vacuum casting and injection molding.
Some examples of where this material can be used is motor housings, connectors, snap fits, automotive interior and other general use parts.
Another thing. And this is important. Due to the limitations of materials 3D printer and materials manufacturers have been known to disclose only data and information which make their materials look good while hiding facts and figures that didn’t suit them. At 3D Systems, we have taken a proactive step to move away from this practice. We have decided to disclose all our numbers, whether they look good or not. We believe that if we are making the case to engineers to consider 3D printing as an replacement to vacuum casting and as an alternative to injection molding, we need to arm them with all the data they need to make an informed decision. This is why our data sheets now clearly mention the data values and the standard tests that we used to arrive at those values. Here is an example of the data sheet for the Figure 4 PRO-BLK 10.
At 3D Systems, we are very excited about our Figure 4 platform because we know that we now have the technology to print parts fast with high production grade quality and which can be scaled to production level throughput. We also now have production grade materials, one of which I mentioned above. Actually, we have a list of materials for various applications, with a lot more to come in the future.
Each of these materials are designed for a specific application. For example, EGGSHELL-AMB 10 is a rigid plastic used to create sacrificial tooling that withstands silicone injection at high temperature and pressure, but breaks away easily. MED-AMB 10 is a rigid, translucent material for a range of medical and industrial applications, including when bio-compatibility, sterilization and/or thermal resistance is required with fluid flow visualization. JCAST-GRN 10 produces accurate, reproducible, and highly detailed master patterns for jewelry casting. I urge you to spend some time clicking the links above and understanding the use of each material.
In the next part of this series I will talk about high density vertical part stacking in the Figure 4 Modular using an example and take you through the lifecycle of a medium run production of plastic parts.