Chemical research for the development of 3D printing materials covers a huge range of opportunities including synthesis and discovery of new or mixed material compositions that are amenable to printing techniques, new methods of printing to increase speed while simultaneously reaching higher resolutions, and materials that can provide component properties (such as strength) that are on a par with components produced by conventional methods.
Chemists use 3D printing
Chemists have used 3D printing to manufacture customised lab ware and reaction systems; others are working on a 3D printer that, instead of objects, is able to print molecules. An exciting potential long-term application is printing your own medicine using chemical inks.
What kind of ‘ink’ is used in 3D printing?
3D printers can use metallic powders, polymers, resins, sand, organic materials (for example cells, but also chocolate!), and mixtures amongst many others.
Chemists provide new materials for 3D printing
Chemists developing materials to be used in 3D printing need to take into account variety, composition, strength, and finishing procedures in order to increase the versatility of the technology. Currently, the variety of materials is limited to the ability of the materials to be powder-based or have low enough viscosities to be extruded from the printing head. Many manufacturers require proprietary materials to be used in their 3D printers or risk forfeiting the warranty. This scenario has limited the material pool, and thus, for 3D printing to continue to grow, the quantity and diversity of materials must increase.
Polymers with the right end-use performances and adapted to the specific 3D printing technologies are needed together with suitable metallic or ceramic materials. The chemical industry can deliver these materials - often working on novel derivatives of existing polymer formulations – and the area is a priority topic within the SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA).
Want to know more?
Visit the Cefic-SusChem booth in the exhibition space at the 6th European Innovation Summit organised by Knowledge4Innovation (K4I) on 17 – 19 November 2014. Or contact the SusChem secretariat.