Additive manufacturing materials
Table of Contents
The history of additive manufacturing goes back to the 1980s — from there, additive manufacturing has taken off, branching out into several different types of technologies for turning computer aided design (CAD) files into 3D physical objects.
Simply explained, additive manufacturing uses CAD software to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes. As its name implies, additive manufacturing adds material to create an object. By contrast, when you create an object by traditional means, it is often necessary to remove material through milling, machining, carving, shaping or other means.
Materials in the additive industry
According to a market research study published by Facts and Factors, in terms of revenue, the Additive Manufacturing market size was valued at around US$ 11,382.40 Million in 2021 and is projected to reach US$ 34,846.25 Million by 2028. This reflects a CAGR forecast of above 20%.
The main classes of materials used in 3D printing today are: polymers, metals and ceramics.
In processes like machining, the material is a known quantity. A part starts as a block of material, or perhaps a forging or casting. Its form changes in the machining process, but its inherent material properties are already set.
In additive manufacturing, however, the material properties are being established alongside the geometry of the part. The raw material has an impact (i.e. the chemical makeup of the polymer, the size and distribution of metal powder particles) but process parameters also play a role in factors such as strength, ductility, porosity and surface finish of the final part. This brings new challenges unique to additive, but also opportunities. When the material properties are determined alongside the geometry, it becomes possible to intentionally and precisely control those properties in specific regions of the part — to introduce properties such as porosity, or stiffness, or flexibility.
End-User Sectors Finding Value in Polymer Additive Manufacturing
The polymer additive manufacturing market is finding more end-users integrating additive manufacturing into their supply chain beyond prototyping and one-offs; the question is, what industries do these end-users belong to?
While polymer 3D printing is well-cemented in motorsport for quick turnaround of spare parts, it has had less application in high-volume automotive production, partly due to low part throughput when compared with incumbent processes like injection molding. However, higher throughput printing technologies like selective laser sintering (SLS) and multi-jet fusion (MJF), which better suit the production volumes needed for automotive, have been utilized for interior automotive components.
The prospect of personalized medical devices has long made healthcare a popular target area. In fact, one of the greatest 3D printing success stories is the additive manufacturing of customized hearing aids. Now, changing FDA regulations for 3D-printed medical devices produced at the point-of-care is lowering a traditional barrier for 3D printing in medicine.
Shoes featuring 3D-printed midsoles or orthotic insoles have gained the most attention when discussing 3D printing's applications in consumer goods. However, polymer 3D printing is finding and expanding into high-value applications outside of footwear.
These application areas are not the only ones where polymer additive manufacturing is finding higher-volume applications that utilize better performing materials; further analysis would reveal other important end-user sectors such as manufacturing, dentistry, entertainment, and more.
Challenges in additive manufacturing materials
Materials for traditional manufacturing technologies have already undergone years of development in terms of both processability and the necessary product properties. In addition to this solid database of materials, the industry has defined material standards and specifications through globally accepted and used norms. With additive manufacturing being a rather young technology, there is still a gap in terms of development, standardization and qualification of materials. The economic success of additive manufacturing technologies depends on the degree to which manufacturers can ensure that properties of the materials used to make the required shapes or structures actually meet the industry’s pre-defined and accepted norms or standards. Currently, only a few materials can be processed within the required quality specifications, and there is still standardization necessary for those that can.
Accelerating additive manufacturing materials development with MaterialsZone
MaterialsZone - the materials informatics platform - allows materials data management to all users across the organization to standardize, normalize and store their information and data in a secured cloud-based platform, accessible from everywhere. Once the data is in the platform, sharing it and collaborating on it becomes easy. Further, the platform facilitates standardization across the users, hence, the data available in the platform is ready to slice-and-dice, query, visualize, analyze and conduct AI-based predictions.
Materials data management is the basics for any company developing materials-based products and is essential for standardization. Figure 1 shows the data hierarchy of MaterialsZone’s database.
As mentioned above, developing additive manufacturing materials is challenging since the materials’ properties are established and configured during “printing” or the additive processes. Hence, process control and fine tuning the compositional and process parameters is crucial and may require an endless number of experiments. MaterialsZone has developed a unique dashboard (SHAP analysis) to shed light on the next experiments to be done to reach the required requirements.
Figure 2 shows a SHAP analysis for a model predicting the ultimate tensile strength (UTS) based on elemental composition of an alloy. If we are looking for a higher UTS, according to the SHAP analysis, we should experiment alloys with higher content of Mo and Al while decreasing the content of Cu and Ta.
Further benefits from MaterialsZone for accelerating the development of new additive manufacturing materials:
- Drastically reduces the number of experiment iterations required to optimize the additive manufacturing performance through efficient design of experiments. This results in reduced R&D costs and faster time to market for developing additive manufacturing materials.
- Focuses and highlights parameters (variables) that really matter.
- Rapid accumulation of knowledge and predictability.
- Easy application of AI/ML visualizations, insights and predictions.
- One platform, all the data, all the insights, all the stakeholders (R&D, scale-up, manufacturing QC, supply chain alternatives selection).
- No loss of knowledge.
Whether you are developing additive manufacturing materials, or any other materials-related or device-related product, MaterialsZone, the materials informatics platform, will help your organization to accelerate its innovation and time-to-market via AI/ML insights and predictions from materials data.
Other MaterialsZone solutions include:
- Innovative Plastics
- Materials data management
- Design of experiment
- Materials development
- Formulations development
- Materials selection – supply chain
- Materials manufacturing QC (six-sigma)
- Digital materials/product catalog