Aug 19, 2015 | By Alec

At some point or another, all owners of FDM 3D printers will glance over at the excellent printing qualities of SLA resin 3D printers and dream about the possibilities. And who can blame them? But it looks like there’s a lot more to dream about in the near future, as one small German 3D printing provider has just developed a new resin that adds a very interesting feature to your 3D printing arsenal. Called 3D Labs, they are about to release their own LED.W resin that features shape memory properties – much like memory foam or Shape Memory Alloys – causing it to return to its original shape even after the object's form is altered through heat.

Based in Sankt Georgen im Schwarzwald in southern German, 3D Labs started out back in 2009 by a group of people with a back ground in CNC machining and the sale of 3D printers. ‘But it's more interesting to develop hand in hand with our customers as a service bureau,’ co-founder and CEO Maurice Scheer explains to us.

While they offer a variety of service, they also dabble in development and are about to release this interesting LED.W resin. While perfect for 3D printing high quality prints (as you can see above), it also features a unique property in the 3D printing world for its shape retention features. As far as they and we are aware, this is the first 3D printable resin to have this feature. While most of the project is still fully embargoed, Maurice was kind enough to explain some of the qualities and possibilities of LED.W.

Essentially, it functions just like Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) metals (commonly used alloys are  copper-aluminium-nickel, and nickel-titanium) that remember their original shape and return to their pre-deformed shape even after exposed to a lot of heat. It is therefore often used as an alternative option in many movement based systems, such as hydraulics for aerospace and robotic applications.But as Maurice explains, that function is now coming to 3D printing. ‘It's a material with a brain,’ he proudly tells us. ‘It opens many new perspectives to get more out from SLA based resins. It features high mechanical properties plus this nice SMA effect.’ Upon printing, the parts are just very solid - exactly what you expect when 3D printing something. However with something like an oven or hairdryer, you can alter their composition even after printing - one design can thus be altered in a hundred different ways after printing (and all with the mechanical properties you started with). However, after cooling and reheating, the object once again returns to original 3D printed shape.

As you can imagine, there are a wide range of 3D printable objects that could benefit from this deformation property. Among the options Maurice speculated about are 3D printed furniture which can be pressured together for packing and shipping, or perhaps multifunctional toys and even sex toys. ‘Maybe designer stuff which can individualized every day or every week to give your part a unique / different look? Maybe housings for electronic devices, such as cellphones who can be transformed to a client's head-structure?’ he speculates.

The only downside is that this resin technology can currently only be applied to the Prodways  MovingLight 3D printer at a wavelength of 365 nm, which 3D Labs uses as an in-house machine. ‘We do have our machine open and do work hand in hand with prodways' R&D department,’ he adds. Ideally however, it will be made available to other 3D printers as well in the near future.

So when will this material be released? Well, that’s complicated. Starting this summer, it will become available to clients requesting 3D printing services from 3D Labs, but no date is set for a release for home users yet. ‘Currently we'd like to only sell parts and learn from our customers' feedback to improve this resin more and more... maybe this will become the step to use resin based materials as end customer parts?’ Maurice explains. Hopefully, a release will follow soon afterwards, but if you’re looking for SMA qualities in 3D printing you’ll thus have to order parts through the 3D Labs website here.


Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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