After first presenting it almost two years ago at Formnext, BASF 3D Printing Solutions is now officially launching its Ultrafuse 316L metal-polymer composite filament to use with open material extrusion (fused filament fabrication or FFF) 3D printers. The materials is riding on the “wave” of bound metal filament systems started by companies like Desktop Metal and Markforged, enabling safe, simple, and cost-efficient production of metal parts for prototypes, metal tooling, and some functional parts. Just like in the proprietary systems, after the subsequent industry-debinding and sintering, the final 3D printed part that emerges is 316L stainless steel.
Ultrafuse 316L, a metal filament with polymer content, uses the same as standard thermoplastic filament extrusion systems. The 3D printer builds a part layer-by-layer, with the polymer content of the filament acting as a binder. The main polymer content (primary binder) from the green part is removed in a catalytic debinding process. The result of this process is the brown part, which consists of pure metal particles and a residual binder (secondary binder). The subsequent sintering process at temperatures right below the melting temperature of the metal removes the secondary binder from the brown part and causes the metal particles to coalesce. The material reaches its final hardness and strength properties post-sintering.
The metal content in the high 90 percent range and the even distribution of the metal within the binder matrix reduces the risk of defects and increases the success rate. The “immobilization” of metal particles within the binder matrix into a filament dramatically reduces the potential hazards of handling fine metal powders when compared to powder bed processes such as selective laser melting and binder jetting.
Ultrafuse 316L: metal for FFF
The new metal composite filament is highly flexible and strong: Ultrafuse 316L can be used with both Bowden and direct drive extruders and can be guided through complex filament transport systems. “Ultrafuse 316L can, under certain conditions, be processed on any conventional, open-material FFF printer,” explains François Minec, Managing Director, BASF 3D Printing Solutions. “Our goal was to develop a high-quality metal filament that makes the additive manufacturing of metal parts considerably easier, cheaper, faster, and accessible to everyone.”
The new materials will be available via iGo3D, Ultimaker and Matter Hackers. IGo3D will provide full service packages and support users from the first request up to the finalized and sintered part, to implement metal 3D printing as a natural component in the manufacturing process. Ultimaker will add print profiles for Ultrafuse 316L to the Ultimaker Marketplace. MatterHackers, a US 3D printer and filament reseller, will also be adding BASF’s new steel filament to its offer.