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    3M pioneers 3D printing with PTFE

    August 05, 2019
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    3M pioneers 3D printing with PTFE

    3M has developed a technology to 3D print fully fluorinated polymers.

    3M pioneers 3D printing with PTFE

    3M has developed a technology to 3D print fully fluorinated polymers.

    3M pioneers 3D printing with PTFE

    3M has developed a technology to 3D print fully fluorinated polymers.

    • 3D printing

      This new technology is particularly exciting for PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) applications and is aimed at the Automotive, Chemical Processing, Medical equipment as well as Energy and Aerospace markets.

      The new development, which complements fluoropolymer processing, allows 3D printing as an additional and differentiated way of processing PTFE. 3M has selected stereolithography, also known as Vat Polymerization, as the Additive Manufacturing process method. Stereolithography involves the curing of a photosensitive material by selectively delivering energy to specific regions. The printed parts show many properties similar to those produced by traditional processing techniques. Some properties may be even superior.

      July 2017

      Surface finish of printed PTFE parts

      Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a process that creates three-dimensional objects directly from digital information, avoiding the use of tooling. Typical tool marks generated during machining are replaced by layered steps using this technology. As a result, parts produced by certain AM techniques can show smooth surfaces.

      This difference is demonstrated by a microscopical comparison of printed and machined PTFE parts with dome-shaped features. Microscopy of the 2mm dome-shape example below illustrates a superior surface finish produced with stereolithography, using tailor-made PTFE formulations. It further shows minimal ‘layer step’ formations that can be noticeable in many additive manufactured articles.

      Certain applications in the food and pharmaceutical as well as semiconductor industries may benefit from this technology. Those requiring low roughness and low surface adhesion are of specific interest. This is because cross-contamination and microbial growth may be minimized and subsequent cleaning processes may be streamlined. This may translate into increased efficiency and service life of the PTFE part.


      Top view of a printed PTFE part* with dome-shaped features.
      *(as produced in 3M labs)

      Top view of a machined PTFE part* with dome-shaped features.
      *(as produced by an external machine shop)

      Dimensional resolution and accuracy


      Top view of a small printed PTFE cogwheel*.
      *(as produced in 3M labs)

      These parts printed by stereolithography not only provide a good surface finish, but also have high dimensional resolution. Therefore, fine PTFE structures of less than 1 mm in dimension can be achieved.

      Furthermore, the design flexibility offered by AM techniques can be maximized, particularly benefitting miniaturized technical parts, lightweight structures and applications requiring parts with a high level of detail.

      Furthermore, the design flexibility offered by AM techniques can be maximized, particularly benefitting miniaturized technical parts, lightweight structures and applications requiring parts with a high level of detail.

      Furthermore, the design flexibility offered by AM techniques can be maximized, particularly benefitting miniaturized technical parts, lightweight structures and applications requiring parts with a high level of detail.

      Furthermore, the design flexibility offered by AM techniques can be maximized, particularly benefitting miniaturized technical parts, lightweight structures and applications requiring parts with a high level of detail.

      May 2017

      Density of 3D printed PTFE parts

      Density range of PTFE parts produced by conventional technologies

      Stereolithography is the selected Additive Manufacturing process method for PTFE and other fully fluorinated polymers.

      Density may be regarded as one of the most significant PTFE properties. Density data allows for conclusions about processing conditions, like cooling rate after sintering, and about certain properties, like flex life or permeability, which all affect the quality of a PTFE part.

      3M printed PTFE parts up to approximately 1.4 mm thickness. The samples show density values of 2.12 to 2.17g/cm³ which is within the typical range of conventionally processed material.

      Visualization under the microscope

      The PTFE parts printed by 3M were analyzed by SEM. No voids are visible in either cross sectional SEM picture, printed or machined.

      Cross section of a 3D printed PTFE part (freeze fractured)
      Cross section of a 3D printed PTFE part (freeze fractured)
      Cross section of a machined PTFE part (freeze fractured)
      Cross section of a machined PTFE part (freeze fractured)

      Important Notice

      All Information which is presented here is based on our current best knowledge and is intended to present general notes and data for 3D printed PTFE articles. All data relate to the current formulation and current processing technique. The formulation and process to print 3D printed PTFE articles is under development and is not commercial yet.

      Thus, product properties, features and processing technology are not standardized yet, may change during development and cannot be warranted.

      Please note that 3M does not make a statement about the commercial availability of this product.

       

      October 2016

      3M to unveil new 3D printing technology at K show 2016

      3M has developed a patent-pending 3D printing technology as an additional and differentiated way of processing fully-fluorinated polymers. This will enable complex structures to be fabricated without the need to use expensive traditional processing techniques.

      Commonly known as 3D printing, Additive Manufacturing is the key term used to describe the process of directly manufacturing three-dimensional physical objects layer by layer using digital information.

      This flexible new technology paves the way for the production of polymer structures in a single processing step rather than moulding and assembling component parts. The development also makes it possible to 3D print fluoropolymer-based spare parts and customised designs with a complex geometry on demand.

      As part of the development, 3M is pioneering the 3D printing of the fluoropolymer PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) which is used in a wide range of applications such as sealing and lining.

      3D printing developing at a rapid pace.
      3D printing is developing at a rapid pace and is opening up a number of exciting opportunities for the manufacturing of fully-fluorinated polymers, particularly for PTFE which is a real quantum leap for the industry.

      This additional new manufacturing process will provide increased flexibility and accelerate product design cycles as spare parts can be manufactured digitally without the need to create new tools.

      Better for the environment
      The new technology also offers a more sustainable manufacturing solution due to potential material savings and waste reduction. This is achieved as the traditional method for creating prototype parts from PTFE creates significant waste. With 3D printing, waste is kept to a minimum and unused material can be used for subsequent printing jobs.
      If you would like to have our key facts in one file, download the handout below.



      3M Pioneers 3D Printing with PTFE (PDF, 338 KB)

      Or watch our video:

      3D Printing with PTFE by 3M revealed on K 2016