The 3D printing industry continually develops and there are lots of 3D printable materials out there. Until now it was believed that PTFE isn’t 3D printable and that’s pretty bad for the industry because PTFE is a technical plastic with very positive attributes thats often used. The research team of 3M together with the Dyneon GmbH have developed a new mixture that should enable PTFE to be 3D printed.
PTFE has lots of good attributes: It is very hydrophobic that means that neither water nor water containing substances make it wet. It’s also hard to break it with acid and because of that it’s often used in hospitals for medical products. But is also a common coating for pans because it has a very low friction and can withstand pretty high temperatures. It’s also a common part in the hot ends of 3D printers. There PTFE is used as a tube for the filament and because of the high temperature (usually around 240°C) it can withstand and the low friction it has.
That may sound like an “super plastic” but it also has some serious disadvantages. Until now it was believed that it is not possible to actually print with PTFE because of the nasty fumes it generates and because of the viscosity that is not right for 3D printing. However, it seems that engineers at 3M have found a solution for the problem with a new material mixture and they have also patented their new recipe.
3D printing is developing at a rapid pace and is opening up a number of exciting developments for the processing of fully-fluorinated polymers, particularly for PTFE which is a real quantum leap. This additional new manufacturing process will give us increased flexibility and accelerate product design cycles as spare parts can be manufactured digitally without the need to create new tools.
It is not yet possible to buy the new material and 3M hasn’t announced any plans for starting the sale of the 3D printable PTFE. But it looks like that they will officaly present the new material at the K Show in Düsseldorf (19-26 October).