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Manufacturing Breakthrough from Materialise Creates Path towards Eliminating Waste in 3D Printing

re-used powder
World's leading 3D printing companies
Image Credit: Materialise

Materialise NV a leading company in  3D  technology solutions in the industrial and medical markets, announced Bluesint PA12, a material innovation that makes it possible to 3D print with up to 100% re-used powder. 3D printing is often considered a sustainable manufacturing technology but a new Lifecycle Analysis indicates that for large series of identical products, 3D printing has a bigger environmental impact compared to conventional production technology. With the announcement of Bluesint PA12, Materialise creates a path towards eliminating waste in 3D printing.

Speaking about how the new innovation will work as a positive force and help companies to operate sustainably, Fried Vancraen, CEO of Materialise said, “Many people view 3D printing as a positive force that helps companies to operate more sustainably. However, that’s simply not enough. As we enter the fourth decade of 3D printing, the question is not whether 3D printing is sustainable manufacturing technology. The question becomes: what can we do to make 3D printing more sustainable?”

With Laser Sintering, the second most commonly used 3D printing technology, up to 50% of the powder becomes waste. The potential to recycle used powder is limited and 3D printing with only used powder creates surface problems that make the 3D printed object unsuitable for most applications. However, Materialise’s Bluesint PA12, makes it possible to print with up to 100% re-used powder, drastically increasing the resource efficiency of Laser Sintering.

re-used powder
Above: Bluesint PA12 parts printed with 100% re-used powder/Image Credit: Materialise NV

With Bluesint PA12, powder that would normally be wasted can be given a second life to make new parts. Parts printed with Bluesint PA12 have similar mechanical properties, allowing users to make a choice not only based on technical specifications but also on the environmental impact.

Explaining how the innovation is a major step towards making 3D printing more sustainable, Jurgen Laudus, VP and General Manager of Materialise Manufacturing, said “With Bluesint PA12 we are able to significantly reduce powder waste. Bluesint PA12 represents a major step towards making 3D printing more sustainable and is an example of how we empower our customers to make a choice for sustainability.”

How Materialise’s new Innovation addresses the “orange peel” effect?

The search for a more sustainable 3D printing process started seven years ago in the Materialise research lab in Leuven, Belgium. The problem with Laser Sintering is that 3D printing with only used powder – residual powder from a previous 3D print process – creates a surface texture problem called the “orange peel” effect, which makes the printed object largely unusable. The orange peel effect is caused by shrinking that occurs when the powder cools down between two consecutive sintering processes. The existing solution is to mix used powder with fresh powder, which is clearly not sustainable.

By using a 3D printer with multiple lasers, Materialise engineers were able to use one laser for sintering the powder and a second laser to keep the powder above a certain temperature threshold. By preventing the powder from cooling down between two layers, they prevented the shrinking process that causes the orange peel effect. The result is a printed object with similar mechanical and visual properties but printed with 100% recycled powder, drastically reducing waste.

By next year, Materialise plans to have several Laser Sintering machines running Bluesint PA12. In the start-up phase alone the company aims to re-use more than five tons of material that would normally become waste.

Materialise has created a beta program for Bluesint PA12 service and invites selected customers with diverse applications and a focus on sustainability to participate in the market validation process for the new technology.


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