Sep 28, 2016 | By Alec

About a year ago, colorFabb revealed that they had been collaborating with the Eastman Chemical Company to change the 3D printing material benchmark. This resulted in the release of nGen filament, which offered the world a glimpse of the next-generation of all-round materials that can be applied to any 3D printing project through consistent reliability and ease of use. Fast forward a year, colorFabb and the Eastman Chemical Company are back with nGen_flex: a very tough and semi-flexible material that is perfect for medical applications thanks to its high temperature resistance.

The Dutch company colorFabb is one of the foremost providers of excellent and sometimes unusual filaments. Founded as a branch of Helian Polymers (a sister company of Peter Holland) a few years ago, colorFabb quickly became popular through a diverse range of reliable filaments, including several metal based polymers. Just a few weeks ago, they launched the steel-based steelFill filament – perfect for display items.

But with nGen_flex, it’s clearly all about functional objects. For the filament, the global chemical specialist Eastman provided their Eastman Amphora Flex 3D polymer FL6000 – which brings very appealing engineering-grade tough, chemical-resistant and flexible properties to the table. “It is best described as a semi-flexible material with good printability on most 3D printers eliminating the use for specialized flex extruders. It’s rated at a Shore A hardness level of 95. By adjusting infill and perimeter settings it’s possible to influence how flexible a part should feel after printing,” colorfab developers reveal.

The web is filled with flexible filaments, but nGen_flex stands out for at least two reasons. First of all, where most flexible materials are 3D printed at agonizingly slow rates, nGen_flex can be 3D printed at regular speeds - perfect for high speed prototyping. This is partly realized by excellent layer-to-layer adhesion properties, enabled by the Amphora Flex FL6000 polymer. “[This results] in strong chemical bonds within the material that allow it to print at a faster speed. It can be used with standard 3D printers, eliminating the need to switch to specialized flex extruders,” colorfab developers say.

nGen_flex has a heat resistance of up to 130 degrees Celsius, and can be steam sterilized at 121 degrees. This makes it very appealing for medical environments, where sterilization is the number one requirement for any material. It means that doctors can even bring 3D printed surgical models into the operating room, while lab researchers don’t have to worry about contaminating their work. “nGen_flex is revolutionizing the healthcare industry, improving on 3D printing applications that are still new themselves,” said Ruud Rouleaux, managing director at colorFabb. “The properties of this material — its durability and heat and chemical resistance — surpass anything we’ve seen before, expanding the limits of flexible 3D printing materials.”

In addition, the material’s high toughness also makes it a good option for engineers who are looking for a balance between durability and flexibility – for the production of car interiors, for example. When 3D printed in single perimeters and with a very low (or no) infill, the objects will be quite flexible – but when those stats are increased, so will the toughness. Users thus have extensive control over the material’s properties. “This collection of functional materials provides a one-stop shopping solution for easy 3D printing, and it illustrates our commitment to provide value to the industry,” says Eastman 3D printing specialist Ludovic Gardet.

This design flexibility is perfectly showcased in the very cool F1 open RC project, which the colorFabb team and Daniel Norée of Open RCworked on over the summer. “We wanted to print the entire car with co-polyester filament and found nGen_FLEX to be perfect,” they said. But more importantly, the material could also be perfect for 3D printed prosthetics, such as the model visible below (available on Thingiverse here). For that purpose, the material will be presented in five skin tones in the near future, though nGen_flex will be initially released in black and dark gray.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

 

 

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