As we have written about it many times in the 3D Printing Center, one of the most desirable materials in 3D printing technology are widely understood elastomers – flexible plastics. Materials of this type have been widely available for many years in FDM / FFF and SLA / UV LCD technologies, however, they are quite problematic in work and possible post-processing, which makes some geometries – especially those with complex shapes, unprofitable. The answer to these challenges may be HP’s new elastomeric material for Jet Fusion 4200 3D printers, which enables the creation of flexible, very light parts for a huge number of applications.
An example of a company that implements this material in practice, obtaining very satisfactory results, is GoProto, which provides production services including prototyping and the production of finished plastic and metal parts. In April 2017, GoProto was one of the first companies in the world to introduce HP Multi Jet Fusion solutions for commercial use and has been working very closely with HP on materials and devices from the outset.
Working in the additive manufacturing industry since 1995, GoProto president and CEO Jesse Lea struggled to find an elastomeric material for prototyping and low-volume production. His company struggled with exactly the same type of problems as other 3D printer users – low productivity, complex post-processing and geometric limitations of printed details. When the HR TPA powder material by Evonik was introduced to the market, GoProto immediately saw the huge potential in this solution. HP invited GoProto to participate in the beta TPA program, and then began testing the material using the solution on HP Jet Fusion 4200 3D printers.
Lea and his team at GoProto used the opportunity to explore applications with more complex designs, durable components, and optimal low-temperature mechanical strength, including mounts and connectors holding cables inside computers and other electronic devices. In the past, companies have had little experience with conventional 3D printing technologies as well as materials and other bridging solutions, such as polyurethane casting or rapid injection molding. Some of the obstacles are expensive tooling, long lead times, and limitations on the geometry of production parts or the physical properties of the material. But the material properties of the HP 3D HR TPA made available by Evonik enabled GoProto to acquire a new customer base.
We are not really looking for parts that can already be manufactured inexpensively using conventional methods. We are looking for applications that were not possible before.
Jesse Lea – CEO of GoProto
GoProto tested production-grade elastomer parts – soft enough to function in the places customers designed for flexible materials, e.g. automotive wiring, electrical wiring harness, bellows, tubing, sports and wearables, protective clothing, anatomical models and medical end-of-arm devices for machines and robots, grippers for automatic devices and personalized footwear.
The inclusion of a new material in the current production with the use of 3D printers does not require changing the workshop or a significant change of equipment. Lea sees great potential for personalizing manufactured parts, especially for sportswear items such as helmets and goggles. “These geometries are really difficult and work with the human body, and each of us is different,” he said. “The possibility of creating an elastomer part that can be individualized to the individual for a really exciting application. This is a huge development zone for this material. “
Overall, Lea foresees the possibility of expanding the business for existing customers and attracting new customers who previously did not consider 3D printing due to material constraints.
Additional information on the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology and materials intended for printing in this technology can be found at www.drukarki3dhp.pl.
Source: press materials