The Promise of High-Temperature 3D Printing
Interest in high-temperature 3D printing is now sufficient for specialized service providers.
High-temperature 3D printing is a result of a gradual evolution in 3D printing technology and combined with the emergence of the professional 3D printer market.
While large-scale commercial 3D printing equipment has been on the market for decades, the pricing of this equipment and its materials was simply too high for all but larger corporations to justify. Later, when the patents expired on the initial 3D printing processes inexpensive desktop equipment emerged, but was found to be insufficient for use by many professionals due to the inadequacy of materials.
Typical materials of the time included PLA and ABS. Both are relatively easy to 3D print, but have limited engineering performance characteristics. PLA in particular suffers from a low glass transition temperature, making it entirely unsuitable for many mechanical applications.
As the market for such equipment saturated, manufacturers turned to a market that did work: professionals, composed of designers, engineers, architects and others using the equipment to produce highly functional pieces for production and prototyping use. However, to reach this market, 3D printer manufacturers had to adapt their machines to enable printing of higher-temperature materials that were suitable for engineering.
Thus a class of 3D printers appeared that included features such as all-metal hot ends, enclosed heated build chambers, precision temperature control and other features that allowed the machines to successfully and reliably 3D print more exotic materials such as ULTEM, PEEK, PPSU and others.
This addressed the concerns of the market, where you would often hear an engineer saying, “I don’t care what the machine looks like, as long as it can 3D print [high-temperature material] because that’s what my prototype needs to be made from!”
Today’s 3D printing market now includes a segment of manufacturers developing 3D printers specialized in use of these and other high-temperature materials. But correspondingly, there is also a high-temperature 3D printing ecosystem to support these devices.
There are several providers of high-temperature 3D printing materials, and now there is even a 3D print full service company specializing in high-temperature 3D printing: Vision Miner, based in California. They explain:
“Founded with the purpose of providing functional, industrial, and affordable 3D printing equipment, for businesses and manufacturing companies, Vision Miner is forging a future where the workflow between product concept, prototyping, refinement, and final production becomes seamless.
Vision Miner lives on the cutting edge of high-temperature 3D printing, working with the equipment and materials we sell. In doing so, we’ve become one of the only printing companies in the United States that possesses a strong foundation of printing in materials like PEEK, PEI, PPSU, and Carbon Fiber.”
The company provides a number of products and services related to high-temperature 3D printing, including:
Sales of high-temperature professional 3D printers, specifically the INTAMSYS Funmat series, which are not only high temperature capable, but also offer rather large build volumes
Sales of spare parts for the Funmat series
Sales of high-temperature 3D printing materials such as ULTEM, PEEK, PPSU and PC filaments
Providing advice to clients on how best to achieve successful high-temperature 3D printing through extensive testing.
Vision Miner explains their approach:
“As one of the few distributors of PEEK-capable printers in the United States, Vision Miner is on the bleeding edge of this technology and has spent all of its life as a company serving other industries near it by exploring PEEK first-hand as a printing substance, working with customers over-the-phone and in-person, and by performing tests on dozens of PEEK projects to discover how to handle and harness PEEK as an evolving high-performance thermoplastic. Our customer service and support for Intamsys’ Funmat printer line is founded on experience in PEEK 3D Printing only known by at most a handful of companies scattered around the world.”
This is an important point: successful 3D printing of high-temperature materials, particularly PEEK, is quite challenging and requires considerable tuning. It’s not simply cranking up the temperature to 400C; there are complex considerations related to cooling to achieve proper internal crystallization. Vision Miner’s experience in this area could save clients significant effort in getting their application up and running.
The INTAMSYS Funmat series in particular addresses these requirements with its 450C nozzle, 160C print surface and 120C heated build chamber.
For clients who don’t require implementation of their own internal high-temperature 3D print operation, Vision Miner offers a high-temperature 3D print service to the public. At reasonable pricing that’s determined in consultation with clients, they leverage their considerable experience in 3D printing materials like PEEK on demand.
Vision Miner explains their philosophy:
“A core part of Vision Miner’s mission is to make functional materials available and accessible to anyone. Through our experience with high-temperature 3D thermoplastics, we’ve cultivated a knowledge base on advanced materials such as PEEK, Ultem, PPSU, and Carbon Fiber. If you or your company is looking to develop projects or parts in industry-grade materials, Vision Miner is here to be your one-stop shop to handle your printing needs, to teach you how to print in tough plastics like PEEK, and to provide consulting and advice for as long as you need it.”
If you are considering getting into 3D printing of high temperature materials, you should consider contacting Vision Miner for their advice and services.