ELIX Polymers launches ABS 3D printing R&D project in collaboration with AIMPLAS

  • Development of a new generation of polymer materials for use in additive manufacturing

A new “ABS 3D printing” R&D project inititated by specialty ABS producer ELIX Polymers aims to develop advanced versions of the terpolymer specifically for 3D printing using Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), more commonly known as Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). ELIX’s aim is to create materials that will produce parts with better mechanical properties such as resistance to impact, low warpage, dimensional precision and high resolution.

To develop this new generation of polymer materials and their application in 3D printing, ELIX Polymers is working in collaboration with AIMPLAS Plastics Technology Centre, based in Valencia, Spain. The Spanish government-run Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) has confirmed that it will fund this R&D project.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, allows manufacturers to produce three-dimensional objects in a variety of materials directly from a digital file. The materials used in 3D printing include various types of polymers, metals and ceramics, among others. The different additive manufacturing technologies, which include laser sintering and stereolithography as well as FFF/FDM, provide methodologies that make complex designs easier to manufacture.

The global 3D printing market in 2014 was worth an estimated €2.8 billion and is expected to grow to up to €8.7 billion in 2020. Analysts expect strong growth in various sectors, thanks to the numerous benefits offered by 3D printing, such as the speed with which an idea can be brought to reality, the reduction in manufacturing errors that can occur, the efficient use of materials, and more.

3D printing of parts using FDM technology is used for modelling, manufacturing prototypes, and small-scale production runs of functional parts. 3D printers using FDM technology work with thermoplastics in the form of a continuous filament, which they heat until it reaches a molten state. They then deposit the melt in layers to form the finished part.

FDM technology has a broad scope of application, including sectors such as automotive, aerospace, jewellery, architecture, biomedicine, consumer products, electrical/electronics, musical instruments, toys, and others.

ABS is one of the most popular thermoplastics in use today. It is based on three different monomers—acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene—and by varying the ratio of these monomers it is possible to create materials with a wide range of properties, for use in a wide variety of applications.

With its intrinsically high tensile strength, impact strength and processability, ABS is one of the two most popular thermoplastics used for 3D printing (the other is the biopolymer PLA).

AIMPLAS and ELIX have already been working together in various stages of the new R&D project, from the development of the ABS product and modification of the formulas, through to manufacturing of filament with thicknesses of 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm, using AIMPLAS’s own filament extruder line (equipped with a single-screw extruder, controlled cooling bath, drive system and spool system), printing and validation of the product, sharing advice in the demands and requirements for final application.