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BASF Ultrafuse 316L – Metal filament for industrial 3D printing

With Ultrafuse 316L, BASF 3D Printing Solutions launches an innovative metal-polymer composite for Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) into the market. It enables the safe, simple, and cost-efficient production of fully metal parts for prototypes, metal tooling, and functional metal parts in the simplest 3D printing process. After the subsequent industry-standard debinding and sintering, the final 3D printed part is 316L stainless steel.

FFF refers to a 3D printing process in which parts are built-up layer-by-layer from moldable material, originally limited to thermoplastics. Ultrafuse 316L, a metal filament with polymer content, uses the same process; first, a suitable 3D printer builds a part layer-by-layer, with the polymer content of the filament acting as a binder. The main polymer content (primary binder) from the so-called green part is removed in a catalytic debinding process. The result of this process is the brown part, which consists of pure metal particles and a residual binder (secondary binder). The subsequent sintering process at temperatures right below the melting temperature of the metal removes the secondary binder from the brown part and causes the metal particles to coalesce. The material reaches its final properties post-sintering, for example with regard to hardness and strength.

The metal content in the high 90 percent range and the even distribution of the metal within the binder matrix reduces the risk of defects and increases the success rate. Due to immobilization of metal particles in the binder matrix into a filament dramatically reduces the potential hazards of handling fine metal powders when compared to Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Direct Metal Deposition (DMD), and Binder Jetting.

The new metal composite filament is highly flexible and strong: Ultrafuse 316L can be used with both Bowden and direct drive extruders and can be guided through complex filament transport systems. “Ultrafuse 316L can, under certain conditions, be processed on any conventional, open-material FFF printer,” explains François Minec, Managing Director, BASF 3D Printing Solutions. “Our goal was to develop a high-quality metal filament that makes the additive manufacturing of metal parts considerably easier, cheaper, faster, and accessible to everyone.”

“In comparison to Metal Injection Molding (MIM), the Ultrafuse 316L offers an office-friendly solution, which opens new production opportunities,” says Athanassios Kotrotsios, Managing Director, iGo3D. “To reach the full potential of the metal filament and to ensure a solid start, it is necessary to understand that Ultrafuse 316L is not a conventional filament,” explains Kotrotsios. “Our goal is it to provide full service packages and support from the first request up to the finalized and sintered part, to implement metal 3D printing as a natural component in your manufacturing process.”

“The Ultimaker S5 raises the bar for professional 3D printing by offering a hassle free 3D printing experience with industrial-grade materials. We are proud to announce that print profiles for Ultrafuse 316L will be added to the Ultimaker Marketplace”, says Paul Heiden, Senior Vice President Product Management, Ultimaker. “3D printing professionals worldwide can then use FFF technology to produce functional metal parts at significantly reduced time and costs compared to traditional methods.”

“Ultrafuse 316L from BASF enables engineers and designers to produce true, pure, industrial grade metal parts easily and affordably using desktop 3D printers,” says Dave Gaylord, Head of Products, MatterHackers. “This material is a significant technological advancement and truly a shift in how we describe what is possible with desktop 3D printers.”