3D printing with plastic
Material diversity: engineering plastics, elastomers, high-tech polymers.
3D printing with synthetic material is characterised by a flexible and at the same time rapid production of fully usable components from various plastics. With the help of CAD-data created on the PC, workpieces can be produced in the laser printing machines with almost complete freedom regarding design and construction. Internal moving parts are just as possible as filigree structures or very light components with very thin walls. 3D printing with plastics makes it possible to produce individual, precisely fitting, and resilient components depending on the situation and application.
FKM has specialised in the powder-bed-based 3D printing process and, in addition to a wide range of machinery, offers 10 different plastics with different material properties.
In addition to various printing tasks, FKM also undertakes the machining of the printed component, refines surfaces on request and carries out quality assurance in its in-house test centre.
How 3D plastic printing works
Like 3D metal printing, plastic 3D printing is based on the tool-free powder-bed technology, in which the synthetic materials are built up layer by layer. During the printing process, the components are supported by the smallest possible structures, which have been determined in advance via CAD, and by the powder bed itself. For this reason, even complicated geometric shapes can be created. The selected plastic powder is applied in a very thin layer to a submersible construction platform. A special laser fuses the powder precisely according to the CAD specifications. The building platform is then lowered by the thickness of one powder layer and a new layer of plastic powder is applied. These steps are carried out until the object is finished. Afterwards, the object can be reworked and refined if desired.
Advantages of 3D printing with plastic
Three-dimensional printing of plastic components has advantages over the classic ablative manufacturing method in several respects. On the one hand, much more complex structures and even internal moving parts or grid structures can be produced, and on the other hand, with significantly less material input, because unmelted powder is collected and can be used for next projects. The components created by three-dimensional plastic printing are fully resilient and ready for use. 3D printing is the optimal solution if workpieces are to consist of as few individual parts as possible and at the same time be as light as possible. It is precisely the freedom of design that makes 3D plastic printing extremely popular in the aerospace, automotive and mechanical engineering industries. In the medical industry, too, three-dimensionally printed parts allow new possibilities, for example to produce patient-specific prostheses in a short time and at optimised costs. Likewise, a large number of other industries are taking advantage of the new possibilities and benefits of additive manufacturing via plastic 3D printing.
Available plastics and polymers
FKM currently uses ten different synthetic materials for 3D printing. Components made from these have different properties that are suitable for different applications. If a component is to be particularly temperature-resistant, a different plastic powder is used as base material than if the focus is on flexibility. The materials are all available in powder form and ready for use.
This plastic is permanently available from FKM Sintertechnik in three different variants (PA 12 white, PA 12 natural, PA 12 grey). This material is particularly suitable for components that need to be resistant to chemicals, biocompatible and/or have a long-term stability. Especially due to the individual production possibilities, patient-specific prostheses can be printed with PA 12 in a very short time.
PA 12 with glass
Like PA 12, the PA 12 with glass variant is robust. Furthermore, this glass-filled fine polyamide is highly thermally resistant and is therefore suitable for use in the engine area of vehicles and other thermally demanding applications.
This material in the colour black is always available at FKM. Within a temperature range from -30 °C to 120 °C, components made of this material are dimensionally stable, mechanically resilient and fatigue resistant.
PEEK HP3 is a high-performance polymer. The material is semi-crystalline and thermoplastic. Components made of this material are suitable for use in high-temperature ranges up to 240 °C. They can be sterilised and are biocompatible, as well as wear-resistant and chemical-resistant.
PA 11 with carbon fibres (ESD material)
The high-performance plastic made of PA 11 has a high strength combined with increased impact strength and elongation at break because it is reinforced with carbon fibres. Since the fibres are encapsulated (compounded) in the raw material, the dark grey components have comparable mechanical properties in all three spatial directions (isotropy). The material is electrostatically dissipative and therefore our choice when it comes to 3D printing ESD components.
Components that need to be flexible and chemically resistant at the same time are printed from the whitish PA 11 powder. PA 11 is made from renewable resources and therefore convinces not only with its immediate product properties but also with its positive ecological footprint.
PA 12 with flame retardant
This polyamide 12 is additionally enriched with a chemical flame retardant. Components made of this material are for use in aviation as well as in electrical engineering. In the event of a fire, the surface carbonises and thus insulates the underlying material.
PA 12 with aluminium
This material is also known as alumide and is a hybrid of metal and plastic. The aluminium-filled polyamide 12 has a metallic appearance and is characterised by high rigidity and increased thermal conductivity.
TPU is a thermoplastic elastomer based on urethane. Products made of this material are firm and at the same time elastic as well as abrasion-resistant. TPU is ideal for applications that require abrasion-resistant and rubber-like material such as in shoes, hoses, seals and the like.
Areas of application for 3D printed plastic components
The areas in which 3D printed plastics can be used are manifold. 3D printing is indispensable in the field of rapid prototyping. For final components, plastic 3D printing is particularly suitable where individually tailored solutions are required. Medical technology is one example. Patient-specific orthoses and prostheses are created via these processes in a material- and time-saving way with an exact fit. Aerospace, the automotive sector as well as mechanical and plant engineering are also predestined for the use of three-dimensionally printed and fully operational workpieces. 3D plastic printing is the best choice wherever complex components have to be produced project-specifically, and, if necessary, even in lightweight construction.