Rigid, flame-retardant consumer electronics and aerospace housings printed in Figure 4 High Temp 150C FR Black. (3D Systems photo)

ROCK HILL, S.C.—3D Systems has developed rigid production-grade materials that offer a smooth surface finish, long-term environmental stability, and long-lasting color. The company recently added four new high-performance resins to its Figure 4® portfolio, designed specifically for batch-run, end-use part manufacturing and prototyping applications, 3D Systems said in a release.

The four new resins—Figure 4 High Temp 150C FR Black, Figure 4 Tough 65C Black, Figure 4 Tough 60C White, and Figure 4 Rigid Gray—are unlike typical photopolymer resins because they feature long-term mechanical performance and stability in indoor and outdoor environments. This quality makes them suitable for highly complex applications in industries such as automotive and motorsports, healthcare, industrial goods, and aerospace and defense.

The resins are also said to deliver a 100 micron surface right out of the box, and a much smoother finish with post-processing.

“We can get it closer to a mirror surface with post-processing,” said Edwin Hortelano, Ph.D., senior vice president of materials engineering and development at 3D Systems, in a phone interview. “We can get surface smoothness of less than 1 micron.”

Hortelano earned his doctorate in organic chemistry at Wayne State University, where he studied how to turn on and off a molecule’s capabilities, functionalities, and traits. He and his group at 3D Systems are now working to increase the range of properties in the materials. As the range of properties expands, the number of applications also expands, widening the company’s business opportunities.

“As I look at it through the eyes of our customers or their customers, what they care about is do the parts work? Are the parts reliable? We’re helping to make the right ecosystem to make additive a real partner in manufacturing and production,” Hortelano said.

Customers are discovering their own uses for the Figure 4 resins, which can be used to print isotropic parts. Because they exhibit the same mechanical properties along the X-, Y- , and Z-axis, isotropic parts don’t need to be oriented to achieve the highest mechanical properties.

Figure 4 High Temp 150C FR Black is a rigid, fire retardant resin with a high heat deflection temperature (HDT) greater than 150 degrees Celsius. One of its distinguishing features is its long-term stability in indoor and outdoor environments. Parts made from the material are reported to have retained their mechanical performance after eight years of indoor exposure and one-and-a-half years of outdoor exposure per ASTM D4329 and ASTM G194 test methods. As a result, the material is suitable for production plastic parts in aerospace and defense, automotive, motorsports, and consumer electronics applications.

Structural, load-bearing consumer goods/electronics joystick printed in Figure 4 Tough 65C Black. (3D Systems photo)

Hortelano said the material doesn’t need to be printed in a heated build chamber, so it’s easier to use, which expands its applications.

“If you’re trying to fight something that wants to solidify, that doesn’t make the task of printing any easier. Figure 4 High Temp 150C FR Black is simple to use—you can pour it into a tray like you can with other Figure 4 resins,” Hortelano said. “You don’t have to take special measures to melt or heat the resins. It’s a better user experience, and it offers you better accuracy and reproducibility.”

Hortelano also said that flame retardance has opened up new markets for the company’s photopolymer platform.

“It’s an important step forward for materials, in general, for additive manufacturing. For 3D Systems’ materials development, it expands the ways that additive manufacturing can be used, and the number of applications that can be addressed with our materials,” Hortelano said. “We’ve never had flame retardant applications for our Figure 4 platform. Now, we’re able to access applications that could be aerospace, electrical components, and consumer electronics. We’re expanding the potential uses in the market for our materials—not so much replacing other materials, but expanding the uses.”

3D Systems has also enhanced its Figure 4 portfolio with a pair of ABS-like materials for high load-bearing production parts. The materials—Figure 4 Tough 65C Black and Figure 4 Tough 60C White—are designed to provide a combination of impact strength, elongation, and tensile strength. They, like Figure 4 High Temp 150C FR Black, are engineered for long-term indoor and outdoor mechanical performance and environmental stability, the company said in the release.

Figure 4 Tough 65C Black can be used to create parts like clips and snaps with more robust properties. It offers high elongation (6.6 percent) at yield, which makes it suitable for brackets, covers, snap-fits, custom fasteners, and structural and load-bearing parts.

Its lighter-colored counterpart, Figure 4 Tough 60C White, offers similar overall performance and is engineered to handle mechanical-load bearing applications like small snap-fits, brackets, handles, and fasteners in consumer products, and wearable devices. Because it can be sterilized using common methods, Figure 4 Tough 60C White can be used to produce tools, handles, and small plastic parts designed for medical uses, the company said.

3D Systems also recommends the material for use in consumer goods and industrial manufacturing applications that require a smooth surface finish, long-term indoor and outdoor stability, and biocompatibility. Sports equipment is a growing market for the materials.

Figure 4 Rigid Gray is said to offer a balance of thermal and mechanical properties, along with excellent print quality, long-term indoor and outdoor mechanical performance, and environmental stability. These properties make the material suitable for functional prototyping and end-use part production. Applications include static rigid housings and covers, casings, panels, and trim.

“We are using the Figure 4 Rigid Gray material to rapidly deliver functional parts for our consumer sporting goods lines, including ski helmet accessories, bicycle lighting coves, and sporting shoe soles and components,” said Gregoire Mercusot, material engineer, Decathlon, in the release. “We are very impressed with the performance of this material and the overall productivity of the Figure 4 solution. Out of the printer, parts display excellent dimensional accuracy and perfect quality, comparable to injection molded plastics.”

The world of 3D printing has matured with better hardware, software, and materials, Hortelano said. Durable resins are among the improvements coming to 3D printing materials.

“If you look at the difference between materials that were used in prototyping, they were used for weeks and months,” Hortelano said. “Now it’s eight years indoors, two years outdoors. What’s really important is 3D Systems is expanding the applications of polymers in 3D printing by adding things like flame retardance, long-term stability, usability, and biocompatibility. This is a theme we’re continuing to build on. These materials are just the most recent reflection of that.”

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