Jul 28, 2016 | By Alec

ABS is one of the most popular thermoplastics in the world, and is used for so much more than just 3D printable filament. Its success is largely based on its composition. Consisting of acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene, these can be mixed in various ratios to realize different properties suitable for different applications. But when it comes to 3D printing, ABS is known for its high tensile strength, impact strength and easy processability. But in the near future, the 3D printing community might associate it with a lot more properties. For the Spanish ABS manufacturers ELIX Polymers has just kicked off a new ABS 3D printing R&D project aimed at developing the next-generation of ABS filaments.

ELIX Polymers itself is well known in plastics manufacturing circles, and has been ABS specialists for more than four decades. Based in Tarragona, Spain, they provide tailor-made ABS products to a very wide range of customers. But the 3D printing market is becoming increasingly important in the world of plastics (expected to be worth up to €8.7 billion in 2020), and thus also in ELIX Polymers’ product range. Back in 2015, the company already had their eye on that market when developing their natural-fiber-reinforced Elix Eco ABS-NF plastic, which is suitable for both injection molding and 3D printing and brings excellent high stiffness and heat resistance properties to the table – without suffering from molding shrinkage or high levels of emissions.

3D printed with Elix Eco ABS-NF filament.

What’s more, the company recently opened a new compounding line that turns out ABS and ABS blended filaments at its production plant in La Canonja, Spain. Among others, it features a twin-screw ZSK 92 Mc18 compounder supplied by Coperion and an underwater pelletizing system from Gala Kunstsoff. These investments were made, the company said, as part of a strategy to become a leading manufacturer of pre-colored ABS filaments for both the professional and private market segments. It is the latest of several investments the company made with an eye on 3D printing.

But with this new R&D project, the Spaniards are focusing even more strongly on 3D printing market. As they revealed, they are aiming to develop the next generation of ABS plastics for additive manufacturing purposes, that can be used on both FDM and SLS 3D printers. When 3D printed the new and improved ABS will feature, they promise, mechanical properties that are superior to those of regular ABS, including excellent resistance to impact and low warpage levels. What’s more, it will be 3D printable in a very high resolution and should be very accurate when it comes to dimensional precision.

To develop this new generation of polymer materials for 3D printing purposes, the Spanish developers have established a collaboration with the Valencia-based AIMPLAS Plastics Technology Centre. Their ambitious plans are also backed by the government-run Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), who will provide funding.

AIMPLA has reportedly already been heavily involved in the early stages of this new R&D project, including in the development of new formulas and the manufacturing of different filament samples. AIMPLAS’s own filament extruder line (featuring a single-screw extruder, controlled cooling bath, drive system and spool system) will also be heavily used, and they will also be heavily involved in the rest of the project. While ABS has been suffering from strong competition from PLA, ELIX Polymers and AIMPLA are clearly working hard to make ABS the undisputed 3D printing champion again.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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