Known well in the maker community, Thought3D is a Malta-based company that develops specialized Magigoo adhesive mixes for deposition-based 3D printing. Up until recently, the small company has primarily served amateur makers and 3D printing users with its original Magigoo adhesive stick, which works best with standard printing filaments like PLA, ABS, HIPS, PETG and TPU.
Last week however, Thought3D announced the release (or imminent release) of a slew of new products aimed squarely at the professional 3D printing market. Still within the polymer/deposition sphere, the company’s new products were developed to solve adhesion problems for industrial 3D printing materials, such as polypropylene (PP), glass fiber reinforced polypropylene (PP-GF), polycarbonate (PC) and Nylon (PA).
Transitioning into industrial
To learn more about its industrial adhesion mixes and to speak about Thought3D’s product expansion, I spoke to Thought3D Co-Founder Andrei-Andy Linnas.
“We’ve seen trends that FDM 3D printing is moving towards industrial materials for about a year now,” Linnas explains when I ask when the company started thinking about developing industrial adhesives. “We also had a couple of trips late last year where we visited companies in China and Europe. Speaking to these companies, we realized that many 3D printer manufacturers are moving towards printing with polypropylene, polycarbonate and nylons and also making use of composites.
“We decided to move into industrial materials because we didn’t see a specific adhesion solution on the market for them. Everyone is trying to hack from whatever is off the shelf, but we haven’t seen any products that nail adhesion for these industrial materials.”
In developing the new 3D printing adhesives for industrial materials, it became apparent that different professional materials would require wholly customized adhesives to meet their various characteristics. As of last week, Thought3D has released Magigoo adhesive mixes for polypropylene (Magigoo PP), glass fiber reinforced polypropylene (Magigoo PP-GF) and polycarbonate (Magigoo PC). It is currently still perfecting an adhesive product for Nylon filaments (Magigoo PA).
“The different plastic materials have their own adhesion properties,” Linnas elaborates. “While some of them are more flexible, others are more rigid and they have different temperature behaviours. “Taking these differences into account, we have come up with completely new formulations for each of the specific class of plastic, catering to their specific properties.”
Working with environmentally friendly materials
A key aspect of Thought3D’s Magigoo adhesives is that most of them are kept biocide free using only water as solvent, making them safer to use and environmentally friendlier. And though the environment was an important factor in Thought3D’s decision to use biocide-free ingredients as much as possible, Linnas draws attention to another reason the company has chosen to work with eco-friendly materials.
“It has two sides to it,” he says. “For a small company like ours, it would be somewhat prohibitive to get the certifications to work with highly toxic products and put them on the market around the world. So, we opted to make non-hazardous products whenever possible. For clarity, not all our formulations are completely safe as the more industrial the use case, the harder it gets to make a completely safe product without sacrificing performance.
“It is a challenge on its own. For example, we have to find chemicals that still produce the results we need while also mixing well, having stability and which have a certain shelf life. Of course, we feel better knowing that we are doing something for the environment around us, but it also helps us to be efficient in distributing our products around the world without many of the obstacles we would have to face with biocides or other toxic materials.”
New Magigoo adhesive products
Turning to the new professional adhesive products, Linnas gives us more details on Thought3D’s new Magigoo products, starting with Magigoo PP.
“Magigoo PP is targeting virgin polypropylene,” he says. “Though there is a whole range of different PP filaments on the market, our Magigoo adhesive should be generic enough to work with most of them. Magigoo PP-GF is targeting a very specific material offered by Owens Corning [its XSTRAND filaments with glass fiber reinforcement]. This material, which is about 30% glass filled polypropylene acts differently to pure polypropylene so that’s why we had to make a specific adhesive for it.”
Magigoo PC, for its part, was developed for polycarbonates, a group of thermoplastic materials known for their good strength. “Our mix should work really nicely with Polymaker’s range of PC filaments, as well as many others,” Linnas adds.
Lastly, Thought3D will be introducing a Magigoo adhesive dedicated to nylon materials, which are increasingly sought after for professional applications because of their high durability and strength. There is a great variation of nylons, which makes it difficult and challenging to work with.
“Magigoo PA is for nylons,” Linnas says. “It should reach the testing stage by the end of December. The problem with nylons is that there are so many different brands out there, and everyone is creating their own variation. We want to make sure that when we release an adhesion solution it works well with a broad range of nylon materials.”
When I ask what the typical testing process is like for Magigoo adhesives, he explains that Thought3D initially conducts research to see who the leaders are for certain material types and segments. It also diligently investigates to find out the most common adhesion frustrations for a given material.
“We speak to as many manufacturers as we can and we have a specific testing process, with certain types of objects and shapes we print,” he adds. This testing enables the company to test its adhesive iterations and make tweaks to the mixture in order to come up with the best solution.
Peeking into the future
Looking ahead, I ask Linnas if Thought3D has any other advanced industrial materials in its sights, such as composites or PEEK.
“We do have requests for PEEK,” he replies. “But at this stage it is very hard to do because PEEK requires specialized machines with heated print beds and or chambers that go to 150°C. Plus, PEEK material per kilogram can cost 1000 euros. It is too expensive and the end market is still too niche, so it may not make sense at this point for us. That being said, we might look at it after solving the nylon mix and we might look into other adhesive formats as well.”
As it continues to test and hone its Nylon Magigoo mix, Thought3D is also preparing for Formnext 2018 in Germany. Though it will not be formally exhibiting at the event, the Thought3D team will be present and some of the company’s partners will be displaying its products. Linnas adds that Thought3D plans to release its professional kit, which will include its industrial adhesives in a single package, in time for the additive manufacturing event.