Vadim Nazarov, Chief Chemist and Head of Materials R&D, came to leading DLP 3D printer manufacturer EnvisionTEC in 2003 as a global expert in photochemistry, having grown his career right alongside an all-new industry for 3D printing materials.
As a student in the Ukraine in the mid-1980s, before the first 3D printing patents were even filed, Nazarov focused his studies on 2D printing technology at the Ukrainian Institute of Graphic Arts. While there, his interest in photopolymers and the earliest stereolithography techniques was piqued.
After earning his doctorate at the Institute in 1992, where he focused his studies on the metrology of plate-making processes for photopolymer printing plates, Nazarov went to France for two years of post-doctorate work.
“I used to work with the photopolymers printing plates for 2-dimensional printing, like letterpress or flexography … Then, I started to go deeply and deeply into photochemistry,” recalled Vadim.
From 1993-1995, Nazarov continued his photochemistry research with renowned 3D printing expert Jean-Claude André of the French National Center for Scientific Research (who was part of a team that filed a patent for a stereolithography process three weeks before the American Chuck Hull who created 3D Systems).
Nazarov went on to become a research scientist for a project sponsored by E.G.G. Photomecca and Du Pont de Nemours that examined applied and theoretical problems in laser technology for direct exposure of flexographic photopolymer printing plates; the work resulted in two French patents.
After immigrating to Canada, Nazarov continued his work in photochemistry for several ink companies, where he developed a number of materials for SLA systems.
It was about that time, Nazarov, who by then had a total of five patents (two additional patents in the Soviet Union and one in the United States), received a call out of the blue from EnvisionTEC CEO Al Siblani.
“It was the beginning of the century and not many people knew about stereolithography, not that many people were in this business,” Nazarov recalled. “We had a couple of conversations, and he asked me to join the company. He asked me to develop the material for EnvisionTEC.”
Nazarov officially joined in 2003, just one year after the founding of EnvisionTEC. At the time, he was EnvisionTEC’s only chemist.
Over years that have followed, Nazarov and his growing team based in Montreal, Canada, have developed numerous proprietary photopolymer formulations, including several that have received CE and FDA approval for use inside the body and other materials that are incredibly strong and durable. His team also develops custom materials to meet specific customer requirements.
While some people like to marvel at 3D printing like it’s magic, Nazarov can attest to the fact that developing 3D printer materials comes with many challenges, especially considering how different light sources and other external processes interact with or initiate the materials.
Nazarov’s team of Ph.D.s are disciplined in organic chemistry and photochemistry, but solving problems to develop 3D printing materials requires a lot of creativity in addition to scientific rigor.
“It’s very difficult work. It’s work every day,” Nazarov said. “Our basic knowledge is very important, and in the group, we have people who have the knowledge of organic chemistry, photochemistry and more. So, all these things combined, give us the final product adopted to our technology, our machine – to produce the final product that our customers need.”
Vadim’s team has seen their hard work in recent years blossom into a string of new material launches, including at least three new engineering-grade materials this year, with more to follow, including:
- E-CE, a stiff, heat-resistant material that offers chemical resistance and is comparable to other cyan-type ester materials in the 3D printing market. With a heat deflection temperature of 170°C, E-CE is perfect for industrial applications that require thermal stability such as electronics encasements and under-the-hood parts. Compatible machines: Desktop, Perfactory.
- E-Poxy, a partially biosourced, tough, dual-cure material that delivers strong, thin-walled final products. E-Poxy offers a good relationship between flexibility, hardness and heat resistance that is also ideal for connectors. Compatible machines: Desktop, Perfactory.
- E-Model Flex, a highly accurate modeling material with improved elongation at break that will be offered in both green and black. Compatible machines: Desktop, Perfactory. 3SP.
Nazarov is also looking forward the future. High-speed continuous 3D printers, such as EnvisionTEC’s cDLM series, have opened the door to the development of all-new materials with a short potlife that can deliver all-new material characteristics to the 3D printing industry. There is also the opportunity to develop 3D printing materials using all-new concepts.
After 14 years of developing materials for EnvisionTEC, Nazarov takes pride of ownership in the formulations that he and his team develop.
“You know, to be honest with you, sometimes formulations are like babies. You develop the formulation, and you care for it,” said Vadim. Then, he ships it off to EnvisionTEC locations and beta customers for testing and feedback as the material is tweaked and prepared for a commercial launch. “It’s difficult work.”