3D4Makers, a Netherlands-based developer of 3D printing materials, has devised a new way to extrude filament that does not require water. The company's multiple jet air cooling system can cool extruded 3D printing filament as effectively as water while reducing overall production time.
3D4Makers' Ardy Struijk with a prototype of the company's filament extruder
In the highly competitive 3D printing industry, you would expect the odds to be stacked against a father-and-son business attempting to produce no less than 10 kinds of 3D printing filament, all from a small production facility in the Dutch city of Haarlem and with a total staff of just five people. Surprisingly, 3D4Makers seems to be doing just fine: the company makes high-performance engineering filaments such as PEEK, as well as more standard 3D printing materials, and has even become the first manufacturer in the world to create a filament made from polycaprolactone (PCL), a biodegradable polyester with a low melting point that is used in various medical devices.
So just how is 3D4Makers managing to do all this? The secret, recently revealed by the Dutch 3D printing specialist, lies in its unique and innovative filament extrusion technique. Typically, filament producers use water to precisely cool lengths of newly extruded plastic to ensure an even shape and diameter. This is generally a very effective practice for creating a usable 3D printing material, but it has its drawbacks: all water absorbed by the plastic needs to be removed again, usually by baking it for several hours, or printing performance will be affected. Again, this is all well and good for producing good 3D printing filament, but with such fine margins for success in the industry, those hours of waiting for water to evaporate begin to add up.
PLLA test print with an Ultimaker 3D printer
3D4Makers was faced with a dilemma: how could it continue to produce such a wide range of 3D printing materials at its small production facility when production of each spool of filament took such a long time? Would it have to reduce its wide portfolio of products to remain competitive, thereby destroying one of its biggest selling points? No. Instead, the Dutch filament manufacturer did something radical: it changed the way it cooled its filament, by eliminating the water phase altogether. Its alternative? High-pressure air jets.
After two years of hard work developing a new production system, 3D4Makers eventually perfected a setup that uses multiple cooling air jets that replace water entirely. This means that plastic can be cooled down evenly and precisely, but without the need for hours of baking to remove absorbed water. This means that the small company can produce its wide range of 3D printing materials without losing precious time. Ardy Struijk, 3D4Makers' head of marketing and sales, commented that he was "proud of the team and [himself] for coming this far against all odds."
Printing with 3D4Makers' PEEK 3D printing filament
In addition to increasing production speed, 3D4Makers' air jet extrusion system has brought other advantages. For example, the company has reported better layer adhesion in materials produced with its new extrusion system, resulting in better and stronger 3D printed parts. The team also found that impact resistance was increased in their waterless filament when compared with standard 3D printing materials made by other companies. The system even allows 3D4Makers to produce 100% pure filaments with no additives.
3D4Makers was started by father and son team Jan-Peter and Jasper Wille. Its portfolio of 3D printing filaments includes ABS, ASA, PLA, PLLA, PCL, PET-G, Hemp, PEEK, PEI, and PPSU.
This post has been curated from the original written by Benedict at www.3ders.org here: 3D Printing Materials