3D printing has been around for about 30 years. One of the factors that determine the success of a 3D printed object is largely dependent on the material and technology used. FDM is the most commonly used technology that provides the option of a wide range of plastics. Recent developments have led to metal printing with this technology.
3D Printing pioneer, Stratasys has in-house expertise for material development and offers advanced materials that can be used to achieve printing with the highest level of efficiency, if the process parameters are properly optimized. A majority of companies develop materials for a specific set of machines. Recently some chemical companies have shown an inclination towards 3D printing materials. China-based oil industry giant Sinopec has entered in a contract with HP to develop AM specific materials. The limitation of printers to be compatible with a specific material can be a major roadblock for companies that may intend to expand their application use cases with materials that offer different properties.
Ultimaker has proposed a solution to this problem. It has developed an open platform, featuring a variety of quality materials that enable customization often required by manufacturers. Ultimaker has partnered with Essentium, Polymaker and eSun with an aim to expand the choice of materials and applications for extrusion-based 3D printing. The platform provides optimized material profiles in its software cura. This claims to solve the issue of the choice of materials. As a result, a user can adopt a required material from the Ultimaker market place and print its part with short lead times.
The collaboration of materials and printer manufacturers can be seen as a move to push 3D printing into the mainstream. It offers an opportunity to print with a large variety of materials. In metal additive manufacturing, specific materials have been under development and several mergers such as carpenter and LPW have taken place. With growing interest in metal printing, such a collaborative model will gain more relevance in metal AM than in polymer because of the sheer scale possibility in terms of manufacturing.
Such a platform has some advantages:
Increased & Continued Innovation : The open market allows design engineers and R&D teams to work from an existing set of materials. It facilitates a larger pool of ideas that can be quickly deployed on an open platform without legal concerns.
Global Engineering Team : The transition of a newly developed material to a product gets accelerated. In house, teams receive global material exposure. Challenges are solved more rapidly than would be possible within a closed model.
Inexpensive & Accessible Technology : A multitude of material options in different price bands helps technology adoption, finally making the technology more accessible to a range of customers.
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