Frank Marangell, president of USA at BigRep GmbH, recently gave us his thoughts on the state of the additive manufacturing industry. Here’s his view on what has been and continues to happen in additive materials.
We’re seeing more movement in materials that meet application specific needs. Customers need to solve some particular application. So, if it’s in automotive it might be ASA, which is a better UV resistant than ABS, or PA6, and maybe it’s PA6 with carbon fill, or glass fill. So, materials are not as generic anymore as they used to be. They’re getting very application specific.
The ability to print PA6 is going to be critical in the future. Right now no one is doing it; it’s more challenging than PA12, or PA11. But automotive companies need PA6 if they’re going to make a real end use part. If automotive is going to shift specialty car parts from injection molding and into additive, then they’re going to want to make it in the same material they make their injection molding, probably, which is PA6. And that’s why companies that are forward thinking are working on PA6.
As more people get out of prototyping and turn to manufacturing with additive technology, application specific materials are replacing the materials that up until now have been good enough. In my Object days, we had our ABS life material, the green material from Object, and it was good enough to test whether you wanted to go to tooling and make this real end use part. But as we shift to additive manufacturing, material properties can’t be prototype quality anymore, they have to be manufacturing quality, and the same with machines.
Materials and additive machine development are tied together. The developments in materials are interrelated to the developments in additive machines.