3D Printing Joint Ventures Needed For Many Suppliers
That scenario has changed in the past few years, particularly with the avalanche of inexpensive but highly capable desktop 3D printers emerging from manufacturers such as LulzBot, Prusa, AirWolf 3D, Raise 3D and many others. Some vendors have also pursued – and achieved – the development of higher temperature 3D printers.
These machines were not only widely used, but are also capable of 3D printing in a much wider range of materials.
But where are these materials coming from?
The traditional approach of simply using materials from existing product catalogs has continued, but sometimes it’s discovered that a particular material may not provide the best 3D printing performance or quality, in spite of the material’s otherwise excellent and desirable engineering properties.
What to do?
The answer is to tune both the materials and the target 3D printer to print the material more optimally.
But there’s a problem: while the 3D printer manufacturers are perfectly capable of tuning their device, they may not have the appropriate chemical knowledge and facilities to tune the materials.
By the same logic, a materials company can tune the chemistry, but is less able to tune the machine that material is targeted to print on.
Thus the need for partnerships: materials companies should reach out to 3D printer manufacturers and vice versa to create joint ventures intended to develop new materials that will be highly successful.
One great example of such a partnership is the work undertaken by E3D Online, makers of what seems to be current industry standard hot ends and extruders, and Victrex. These UK-based operations teamed up to develop a new “printable” PAEK polymer. They explain the problem:
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