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New Material Enables Multi-phase, 3D Printed Structures
A new pseudo composite material from Stratasys is reported to offer innovative benefits for 3D printed parts and prototypes, resulting in high stiffness and strength properties with multi-phase abilities.
Made up of high-strength carbon-reinforced plastic, the material enables a multi-phase structure when used in conjunction with the company's PolyJet technology. It ultimately allows companies to replace metal parts with a high-strength, carbon-reinforced thermoplastic part. The new material enables the variance of material properties, such as on a remote control where there are soft buttons, but a hard backside.
"So you can put stiffness where you want it and if you want flexibility someplace else, you can do that all in one single build," said Jeff DeGrange, vice president of direct digital manufacturing for Stratasys. "And we have over one hundred combinations we can put down, so you can get whatever mix of material properties you want in order to get the desired properties."
The pseudo composite material recently received a Gold Award at this year's Concours Lepine International Inventions Exhibition, held within the Foire de Paris event in France. Used in combination with the PolyJet technology, the pseudo material boasts a multi-phase structure and pre-designed properties, including mechanical, thermo-mechanical, acoustical, optical, and electrical, and enables the design and formation of numerous combinations of materials. The innovative characteristics of the material also make it possible to design and test prototypes that are very close to the desired end-user part in terms of mechanical properties and material combinations.
"You can do the complex geometries and within that complex geometry, you can vary the materials within that part and then be able to iterate," DeGrange said. "So it helps with time-to-market and helps to bring forward an optimized product design.
"With the PolyJet technology, it is like putting a little drop of resin and then when the ultraviolet light hits it, it goes from being a liquid to a solid within a millisecond," he continued. "And you can vary what's going into that little droplet, and that's where you get this gradient structure, this multi-phase structure. For the PolyJet technology, we'll continue to bring out new materials so that we can open up more capabilities for our customers, and we'll also do that for our other additive manufacturing processes, such as FDM."
Innovation is crucial to the company. Stratasys invests about 10 percent of its revenue back into R&D, DeGrange said.
"The world is waking up to 3D printing and additive manufacturing, and the real innovation is how our customers apply it to their business," he said. "It's the customers who are going to write a lot of the innovation stories as we go forward. We'll help enable that by giving them additional tools and materials and software capabilities, but how it gets applied in their business—that's the fun thing for me to see."
DeGrange said there are many applications opening up in the medical industry, such as making implants that are unique to the patient's body so that recovery and surgery times are less. There is also a greater use for 3D printed parts in prosthetics that are custom fit for a person who has lost a limb. Having worked at Boeing for 20 years before coming to Stratasys, DeGrange is interested in seeing what advances come about in aerospace and defense, such as in the drone community, where 3D printing can have a significant impact, he said. Instead of traffic copters going over rush hour traffic, drones are beginning to be used, as with ranchers using drones to count their heads of cattle.
"And can you imagine your own personal drone that you can send out to pick up a cup of coffee and it flies back to you," he said. "There's an obvious use for drones in the military, but much bigger applications for drones in the commercial world."
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