Thermoplastic filaments for 3D printing
The world of 3D printing is expanding as new printers and technologies are offered and as requests for new applications grows. From engineered materials to medical applications, the uses for 3D-printed materials seem limitless.
Suppliers of the thermoplastic filaments used as the basis for 3D printing face a growing demand for materials that meet strict specifications such as durability, rigidity, and flexibility, among many other qualities. And to ensure these filaments meet the required specifications, researchers are turning to a wide range of instruments to study these materials at scales down to the atomic level.
Consider the following needs:
Developing new filament materials via extrusion technology
At the heart of one of the most popular 3D printing techniques, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) feeds a continuous filament of thermoplastic material into the printer, often nylon or different types of plastics. These filaments are made with extrusion equipment, which manage their thermoplastic properties.
We offer extrusion and rheological tools that accelerate iterative design, prototyping, and custom part production for 3D printing materials. For example, our Thermo Scientific Process 11 Twin-Screw Extruder is designed specifically for development and formulation specialists in the plastics industry. The twin-screw extruder offers significant benefits over single-screw extruders for 3D filament development by minimizing the effects of coalescence to maintain particle size distribution. It also reduces waste, improves layer-to-layer adhesion with uniform binder dispersion, and saves time and energy consumption by eliminating the need to dry hygroscopic materials.
Measuring the flow characteristics of FDM materials
Rheology is the study of flow and deformation of materials. Polymer filaments for FDM necessitate an understanding of rheological behaviors as they undergo feed rate, heating, deposition, and cooling in a highly controlled manner. In FDM, rollers feed the filament material through a heater that liquefies the filament and sends it through a nozzle to create a printed part. From a rheological perspective, the flow of the polymer from the liquefier through the narrow nozzle is of key interest. Polymer filaments undergo a change in their viscoelastic properties in this process, and this must be managed for quality control purposes.
Rheometers, such as our Thermo Scientific HAAKE MARS Rheometer, enable developers to plot the shear rate of a material as it undergoes changes in viscosity during the melting process. By measuring the behavior of polymers under rapid flow and changing temperature conditions, materials scientists can optimize the additive manufacturing process.
Controlling filament diameter tolerance
Single-screw extruders are designed to melt and transport polymers through a die and typically produce filaments evenly and within acceptable diameter tolerances. Twin-screw extruders mix or compound advanced materials designed to meet certain performance characteristics where a single-screw machine cannot. However, due to their mechanics, twin-screw extruders transport material in a pulsing flow. This makes controlling filament diameters difficult.
Twin screw extruders for 3D printer filament production
Our Thermo Scientific Process 11 Twin-Screw Extruder addresses this issue with a melt pump accessory that manages uniformity for filament diameters. The melt pump uses two meshing gears that accept the pulses of extruded materials and pressure to produce uniformly constructed filament rolls through the extruder die.
As the world of 3D printing continues to expand, materials scientists need a wealth of analytical tools to develop high-quality, next-generation thermoplastic filaments used as the basis of this process. Please watch our on-demand webinar, “Twin-Screw Compounding for Filament Production” to learn about the many Thermo Scientific tools that can assist you as you expand your 3D printing capabilities.
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