Advanced Materials

The primary objective of additive manufacturing technologies is to enable the production of high performance, more advanced parts, and components. Hence, the development of new and more advanced materials is a core element in the evolution of AM technologies.

It goes both ways: development and optimization of advanced materials for 3D printing enables faster processing and more complex parts to be created; at the same time, the evolution of 3D printing processes depends on optimization of ever more advanced materials for more high-performance parts.

Advanced materials for AM

In general, by advanced materials, the industry refers to all those materials on the fringe of material science. These include composites, high-performance polymers, high-temperature metals and technical ceramics.

Composites used in AM are primarily composites of carbon fiber, glass fiber or Kevlar within a thermoplastic matrix (unlike traditional composites which are in a thermoset matrix). They can be available as powders, pellets or filaments, and generally used chopped fibers (although technologies capable of additively manufacturing continuous fiber composites are in development). However, the definition of composites is extremely broad and can extend to include metal composites, polymer-ceramic composites, and even metal-ceramic composites.

Advanced materials in AM also include high-performance polymers, especially PEEK, PEKK and PEI (ULTEM). These are high temperature, high-stress resistant thermoplastics that melt at temperatures of 400° C. The ability to 3D print using these materials for a number of medical and metal-replacement industrial applications is expected to significantly drive the demand of additive manufacturing.

Advanced materials in ceramic 3D printing are represented primarily by technical ceramics such as alumina (aluminum oxide), zirconia (zirconium oxide) and other non-oxide and silicon-based ceramic materials such as silicon carbide and silicon nitride. These materials offer almost unparalleled properties in terms of heat resistance, strength and lightweight, however, they are difficult to shape using traditional technologies. Which is why they are considered particularly relevant for the future of AM.

The most advanced materials in metal additive manufacturing are refractory metals as well as some metal-ceramic alloys composites. These are extremely high-temperature resistant metals that can withstand temperatures of over 4000° C. The list of 3D printable refractory metals (mainly by powder bed fusion processes) includes tungsten, niobium molybdenum and other metals which can benefit enormously from the geometrical possibilities offered by AM.

Fringe material science

Lastly, 3D printing rapidly became a key technology for the development of entirely new materials categories. These include applications involving graphene and graphene allotropes (the different shapes that graphene can take such as nanotubes or buckyballs), ultra-light or ultra dark or even so-called 4D materials.

Broadly speaking, these are materials that can be programmed to perform a specific action after they have been used for manufacturing an object. Hence they add the “4th dimension” in that the objects continue to evolve through time after the 3D printing process is completed. For example shape-memory materials that can turn back to previous states and shapes, or auto-assembling structures that change shape as they are heated up or cooled down. The list goes on and on and in many cases, 3D printing has proven of key importance in rapidly enabling the testing of new theories in material behavior.

  • 6K, an expert in the production of sustainable advanced materials for energy storage and additive manufacturing powders, has closed a $51M Series C financing round. With this investment, 6K will complete its Battery Development Center of Excellence, adding 33,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art product development space and doubling its 6K…

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  • Tethon 3D, leveraging Mechnano MechT technology, will soon commercially launch C-Lite, a high-temperature-resistant carbon nanotube ESD material, printable on SLA, DLP and LCD Additive Manufacturing (AM) printers. Using Mechnano’s E35A Masterbatch for static dissipative (ESD) properties from Dymax, in combination with its own formulas, Tethon 3D created an ESD resin,…

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  • Engineers at Caltech and NASA JPL have developed a material inspired by 3D printed chain mail that can transform from a foldable, fluid-like state into specific solid shapes under pressure. The study on the 3D printed tunable structured fabrics, which began in 2018 and was delayed due to the pandemic,…

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  • In a recent publication on the company’s official website, Northrop Grumman engineers focused on the benefits of PBF 3D printed ESD PEKK materials for aerospace applications. The evolution of additive manufacturing has opened a new door for advanced materials. One such additive advantage comes from electrostatic dissipative PolyEtherKetoneKetone (ESD PEKK),…

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  • Precious metal powder manufacturer C. Hafner signed an official collaboration agreement with metal 3D printer OEM TRUMPF. Together, the companies will be pushing innovation and advancements in additive manufacturing technology with precious metals. The specific aim of the cooperation is a broad use of AM technology in an industrial environment.…

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  • soft magnetic materials

    The NASA SBIR Phase I funding awarded to Elementum 3D is centered around the development of additively manufactured soft magnetic materials for large diameter (HETs). In-space electric propulsion systems are growing in terms of importance for interplanetary missions. Better manufacturing methods are needed to produce large diameter Hall-effect thrusters with…

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  • A study conducted by Swiss researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH in Zurich has produced, for the first time via additive manufacturing, a high-density amorphous and crack-free bulk metallic glass (BMG) based on palladium alloy. The results show significant promise in the use of such material…

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  • In advance of its physical launch event on May 19th, Wayland Additive recorded the first sale of its Calibur3 metal AM system to Exergy Solutions Inc., Calgary, Canada. Since the virtual launch event held in March, Wayland has garnered significant interest in the Calibur3 machine from across a wide cross-section…

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  • A newly established collaboration between SLM Solutions and Elementum 3D, a Colorado-based advanced AM materials developer and provider, will bring access to new powders beyond standard AM products to adopters of SLM Solutions’ metal PBF systems. While SLM Solutions already offers several powders based on standard alloys, Elementum 3D is…

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  • Tethon Corporation (dba Tethon 3D), a global materials company out of Omaha, Nebraska, (USA) is releasing three new UV-curable resins for the Bison 1000 DLP printer. The company developed and began selling graphene, branded as Graphenite, along with Cordierite, and Mullite resins to Bison 1000 customers this month. The target…

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