Q&A: BASF discusses Ultrafuse 316L metallic 3D printing filament

Q&A: BASF discusses Ultrafuse 316L metal 3D printing filament

The ability to 3D print with metals on the desktop has long been the dream of many manufacturers. When Desktop Metal first launched its name in 2015, there was anticipation for a lower-cost desktop solution, and even before that, companies like The Virtual Foundry were providing users with high-density filaments for low-cost printing in metal and ceramics.

Earlier this year, the global chemical company’s additive manufacturing (AM) BASF decided to throw his hat in the ring and officially launch a metal-polymer 3D printing filament. First introduced about two years ago, Ultrafuse 316L has gone through an extensive test process with selected customers and partners and is intended to enable simple and cost-effective production of metal parts on any extrusion-based 3D printer.

TCT spoke with François Minec, Managing Director and CCO at the BASF 3D printing solutions to find out where this material fits in the market and how it extends the capabilities for desktop users.

TCT: There are a number of metal solutions on the market geared towards FFF machines – can you specify what makes this particular material unique?

FM: There are two main things that set this filament apart from others on the market.

Ultrafuse 316L was developed based on BASF’s extensive know-how in metal injection molding technology (MIM), especially in the development and marketing of catalytically debondable raw materials. Catamold offers the highest debinding rates and therefore the highest production rates; The process is carbon-free, which means that there is no carbon left in the steel that could impair the mechanical properties. Ultrafuse 316L green parts are very strong and can be easily shipped, while the debinding process is a gentle, fast gas phase process that minimally stresses the brown parts that occur.

The special, patent-pending filament morphology offers high strength – ie the filament does not tear during processing – excellent flexibility, which enables small bending radii and break-free winding, and excellent printability.

TCT: Are there certain areas of application where you think the material has the greatest impact?

FM: Certainly. The entire metal FFF area is currently in the application development phase. We assume that the first applications in the area of ​​tools, devices and devices and later the joining of components will occur.

TCT: The material has a similar three-step process as the binder jet technologies – does this have the potential to shake up this market as a cost-effective alternative to current metal printing?

FM: We are convinced of it. It eliminates the need to invest in an expensive system and customers can access our network for debinding and sintering. As a result, the entry effort into metal 3D printing is very low and inexpensive. Even better, many customers already have an FFF printer and can therefore start printing on metal components right away.

The low part-cost-of-ownership makes this technology extremely competitive. FFF / FDM technologies are well positioned due to the low cost of the printing platform compared to binder jetting.

TCT: The material should be suitable for every FFF 3D printer – are there any special conditions or additional design guidelines that have to be taken into account?

FM: Based on our own experiences and what we’ve seen on the customer side, Ultrafuse 316L actually prints very well on an impressive variety of printers. Closed building chambers and a heated bed are definitely an advantage here.

In our user guide, we recommend using a standard FFF printer with a closed chamber. Of course, there are also some basic rules to be observed with our technology in order to create a successful part. Remember that “a great part starts with a great design” – and this is explained in our user manual. In order to get the best out of our technology, our constant message to our customers is “think additiv”.

TCT: Do you think materials like this will further increase the acceptance and acceptance of desktop FFF 3D printing as an industrial tool?

FM: No doubt. FFF printers have historically been considered the first choice for hobbyists, with the industry leaning more towards the other 3D printing technologies. We can now see that the significant improvements in accuracy and reproducibility of the FFF printers make them very suitable for industrial applications. For metal applications, whenever low part cost is critical and surface quality is less important, metal FFF could be an attractive alternative.

The process is becoming more and more professional and reliable, so that industry standards can already be achieved with this technology. FFF printing is inexpensive and easy to use, so anyone can access this technology quickly and easily.

The user perspective of Dave Gaylord, Head of Product at MatterHackers …

“MatterHackers customers are constantly looking to expand the capabilities of their desktop 3D printers, and Ultrafuse 316L is the biggest leap we’ve seen in a while. The ability to easily and inexpensively manufacture real, pure metal parts in industrial quality is a tremendous technological advantage. Progress for the desktop space and changing the way you think about what’s possible with a desktop 3D printer.

Affordable desktop 3D printers are constantly finding applications in new locations, from the home, office, workshop to a studio or manufacturing hall. The addition of metal 3D printing enables the next level of adoption – I see metal injection molding systems and classic machine shops really taking advantage of the fast iteration cycles and production capabilities of BASF’s new material combined with reliable hardware that is available today. “

TCT: Can we finally expect more metal filaments in BASF’s product roadmap?

FM: We plan to add more types of metal to our portfolio. Ultrafuse 316L is a great material with a wide range of uses and is a good place to start.

BASF will be at the. exhibit Formnext in Frankfurt on 19.-22. November in hall 12.1, booth D21. Register for your show floor ticket here and visit the TCT @ Formnext conference Website to register for your conference pass.

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