From Prototyping to Industrial Production
While 3D printing has been around for some 30 years, today the market is witnessing the dawn of a new era in the technology. In recent years, we have seen a shift from visual parts printing to functional parts, though the latter have mainly been prototypes up to now. Today, we are entering the age of industrial production 3D printing of highly accurate, high-performance parts.
Major manufacturers in a number of industries have begun to move to small series 3D production, such as for spare parts for the automotive industry. They are rethinking their production methods because, for limited batches of smaller parts, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), can be a more efficient proposition.
This already is the case with metal parts, especially for the aerospace industry, and now, as the technology improves, 3D-printed polymer parts are becoming a serious option for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in a number of industries.
“We can deliver resins that are closer in performance to traditional technology,” says Dominique Giannotta, Sinterline® Program Leader.
Currently there are very few polymer materials available for selective laser sintering (SLS) – mainly PA11 and PA12. However, Technyl® teams have pioneered Sinterline® PA6 powders, based on the same resin chemistry, and which deliver better mechanical performance for SLS for robust applications.
There is still a credibility threshold with 3D printed polymers, because molded parts will still provide better performance. But Sinterline® is closing the gap, including with temperature performance.
In additional to the mechanical properties, an equally important factor in making this market shift a reality is the array of sophisticated simulation tools becoming available. By anticipating the functional performance through simulation, companies can determine the robustness of the part before they print it out.
Working with e-Xstream engineering’s Digimat® simulation software, Technyl® teams are able to offer this simulation tool to Sinterline® customers. This is a partnership that goes back 10 years already for injection molding, and now Technyl® teams are able to offer customers the same capabilities for 3D printing.
Based on specified performance criteria, companies can plan limited series production runs. They can anticipate the performance and get it right before printing, saving both time and money. Also, more efficient print-runs can be planned by identifying production issues in advance, such as warpage, and fixing them before starting production. This helps maximize the number of parts in a production run from the beginning.
“We are getting positive feedback from OEMS,” says Giannotta. “They are telling us that what they need is performance, not parts.”
Find out more about Technyl®’s Sinterline® powders.