Sabic zooming in on 3D printing market

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Photo by Sabic Sabic materials were used on the Cincinnati-brand Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine at Sabic's Polymer Processing Development Center in Pittsfield, Mass.

Materials maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (Sabic) is expanding its offerings for the 3D printing/additive manufacturing market.

"We can take our knowledge in materials and application development to design new materials for additive manufacturing," additive manufacturing senior business manager Keith Cox said 9 May at the RAPID + TCT 3D printing trade show in Pittsburgh.

"Our materials can be specialized in a variety of ways," he added. "When you look at a material like polycarbonate, if you're blow moulding a bottle or making a headlamp or making DVDs, it wouldn't be the same material. We can do the same thing for additive manufacturing."

"Our strength is our whole gamut of resins and compounds, combined with our application experience," technology and innovation general manager Sanjay Mishra added.

With this goal in mind, Sabic has several products under development, including:

• PC materials for selective laser sintering with good mechanical properties and part densities above 96 percent. These materials may provide an alternative to nylon 12 and can be processed using commercially available printers.

• Extem-brand polyimide filaments for fused deposition modelling (FDM). These filaments are intended to provide high-temperature solutions for additive manufacturing.

• High-impact-strength PC filaments for FDM. These new materials offer improved impact resistance compared to other commercially available PC filaments, and can be processed at standard PC conditions.

Sabic also introduced these new products at the show:

• A new grade of Ultem-brand polyetherimide filament for high heat resistance and mechanical strength, available in black and natural (unpigmented) colours.

• A new grade of Cycolac-brand ABS filament with a balance of properties, available in black, white and natural (unpigmented) colours.

• A new grade of Lexan-brand PC filament that provides thermal properties higher than those of general-purpose ABS filaments. The new grade is available in white.

All of Sabic's new filaments are designed for use in Fortus-brand printers made by Stratasys Ltd.

For large-format additive manufacturing, Sabic — based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with North American headquarters in Houston — also introduced several new compounds in its Thermocomp AM line. These materials are based on the firm's ABS, PPE, PC and PEI resins and exhibit good creep behavior vs. semi-crystalline resins, officials said.

The new compounds also offer reduced deformation under constant pressure and lower shrinkage during cooling, which means these materials demonstrate greater dimensional stability and less thermal expansion during part use, officials added.

When reinforced with carbon or glass fibres for added strength, the compounds can be used for applications in the tooling, aerospace, automotive and defence industries.

At its booth, Sabic also was displaying a section of a boat hull from a yacht made by Livrea Yacht of Palermo, Italy. The hull was printed on a Cincinnati-brand Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine at Sabic's Polymer Processing Development Centre in Pittsfield, Mass.

The outer layer of the hull uses a carbon fibre-reinforced polyphenylene ether (PPE) compound, and the inner lattice support structure is printed from a carbon fibre-reinforced Ultem PEI compound. Using large format additive manufacturing for this application reduces the need for costly moulds and prototyping, officials said and yields a lighter, stronger hull in half the time vs. traditional fabrication methods.

Cox and Mishra both said they see higher growth rates ahead for additive manufacturing.

"To truly move the additive manufacturing process to the next level, you need materials to match," Cox said. "The number of materials available for additive manufacturing might be small in comparison to the number for injection moulding, but you need to embrace a material for each specific end use."

Mishra added that collaboration will be important for additive manufacturing to reach its potential. "Each part of the value chain has a role to play," he said. "They need to do it together."

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