Resin-based 3D printing is rapidly becoming a very popular approach for making functional parts, largely due to the increased availability of more powerful resins.
Resin 3D printing is the process of solidifying a photopolymer resin, layer-by-layer using a light source. Sometimes the light source is an aimed laser, while other implementations use an LCD screen or a DLP projector. Either way, the process produces good parts with high resolution and excellent surface textures.
While under patent, access to resin 3D printing was largely restricted to those with large budgets, but in the several years since the original patents began to expire, there’s been a small explosion of inexpensive resin 3D printer options, ranging from the pioneering Formlabs devices, to the countless inexpensive Asian machines.
For years many resin 3D printer options had a quite constrained selection of materials, usually available only from the manufacturer, and it was a big deal when new materials appeared.
That’s starting to change.
An increasing number of resin 3D printer are able to make use of open materials, in which the materials may be sourced from a third party instead of the manufacturer. This has been a huge boost to the business of third party resin suppliers, who are increasingly developing unusual materials to push the envelope of possibility with these machines.
One company that’s been taking advantage of this situation is Germany-based Druckwege, who offer a selection of high-quality 3D printer resins.
Recently they released three intriguing resins that should allow 3D printer operators to take on new projects that require unusual properties.
Their new Type D Flex resin offers the ability to 3D print flexible objects. They say it provides “TPU-like” properties once polymerized.
Another new material from Druckwege is their castable material, Type D Castable Wax. It does include a high proportion of wax in the resin, and thus can be used in a manner similar to conventional wax casting: a 3D print is surrounded by plaster-like casting material, and then the 3D print is burnt out with a furnace, leaving a void in the exact shape of the 3D print. This can then be filled with liquid metal or other unprintable materials.
Finally, they announced a high temperature material option, Type D High Temp. This is a very interesting material because it achieves the ability to withstand high temperatures, but is produced in a cold process.
With filament-based 3D printers, you must heat high temperature materials higher than their already-high softening point to extrude them. This results in more complex 3D printers that can withstand such high heat. However, when you 3D print in a high temperature resin there is no heat; when the material polymerizes it takes on a high heat resistance property.
These high temperature 3D prints can be not only used as parts in high temperature environments, but also for casting. Here we see an example of how that’s done: the 3D printed high temperature mold is placed in a standard injection mold holder.
You can see how a third party resin supplier like Druckwege is able to provide new capabilities for 3D printer operators who may be constrained by their normal material options. I suspect that eventually most materials will be supplied by third parties, rather than from 3D printer manufacturers due to the cost and choice advantages.