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3D printing with up to 100% re-used powder
Source:Adsale Plastics Network    Editor:JK    Date:23.Dec.2020

Materialise NV, a leading company in 3D technology solutions in the industrial and medical markets, has presented 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 a conventional production technology. With the announcement of Bluesint PA12, Materialise creates a path towards eliminating waste in 3D printing.


“As we enter the fourth decade of 3D printing, the question is not whether 3D printing is a sustainable manufacturing technology. The question becomes: what can we do to make 3D printing more sustainable?” said Fried Vancraen, CEO of Materialise.


Bluesint PA12 parts printed with 100% re-used powder.

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.


Materialise has announced Bluesint PA12, a manufacturing innovation that makes it possible to print with up to 100% re-used powder, drastically increasing the resource efficiency of Laser Sintering.


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.


“With Bluesint PA12 we are able to significantly reduce powder waste,” noted Jurgen Laudus, VP and General Manager of Materialise Manufacturing. “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.”


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 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.


Over the course of 2021, 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.



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