Materialise launches sustainable service

Materialise has introduced a new service for 3D printers that makes use of its Bluesint PA12 reusable powder for laser sintering that’s said to offer a more sustainable solution with little or no waste.  

Materialise has developed Bluesint PA12, a completely reusable powder for laser sintering 3D printers.

The Bluesint PA12 material was first announced at the end of last year and makes it possible to print with up to 100% re-used powder. It’s quite common in laser sintering printers to collect left over powder and to mix this back with fresh powder to be reused. However, the problem with laser sintering is that 3D printing with only used powder – residual powder from a previous 3D print process – creates a surface texture problem called the orange peel effect, which makes the printed object largely unusable. The orange peel effect is caused by shrinking that occurs when the powder cools down between two consecutive sintering processes.

Materialise found that this could be eliminated by using a printer with multiple lasers, so that one could be used for sintering the powder while a second laser keeps the powder above a certain temperature threshold, preventing it from cooling down between layers. This process produces parts with similar mechanical and visual properties but printed with 100 percent recycled powder, drastically reducing waste. 

Materialise then went on to set up a beta program open to customers that were focussed on sustainability. So this new service builds on this and makes sense given that only a limited number of customers are likely to invest in the necessary hardware despite the sustainability advantages. 

Jurgen Laudus, vice president and general manager of Materialise Manufacturing says that he expects most customers will use this service for functional prototype printing, noting: “Typically, 3D printed prototypes have short lifespans because they are only used in the validation phase, creating a need for a more sustainable solution in this part of the product development process. Bluesint PA 12 allows for sustainable development of prototypes with functional and mechanical properties comparable to the end part.”

One of the original beta customers was the The Maggie Program, a Belgium-based non-profit organization that builds multi-functional shelters for local communities. Benjamin Denef, CEO and Founder of Maggie Program vzw and DMOA architects, explains: “We rely on the flexibility of 3D printing to address some of the manufacturing challenges we faced for the production of certain parts of our shelters. With Bluesint PA 12, Materialise now gives us the possibility to manufacture these parts in a more sustainable way with similar mechanical properties. We are always looking for new ways to reduce our environmental footprint and Bluesint PA 12 allows us to make a manufacturing choice not only based on technical specifications but also on the environmental impact.”

You can find more information on the Bluesint PA12 material and associated service offering from materialise.com


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