July 30, 2015 | By Simon

Despite the range of improvements that have been made to both additive manufacturing technologies as well as the materials used in the additive manufacturing process, the ability to create parts using a desktop 3D printer that are ready for highly-demanding applications have still left a lot to be desired.  

Perhaps the most prominent company thus far that’s been focused on creating high-strength parts is Boston-based MarkForged.  The company’s Mark One 3D printer is capable of embedding Kevlar, carbon fiber and fibreglass into printed objects to make the prints considerably stronger than any other desktop 3D printing system.  To date, the printer has been used to create everything from functional hand tools and drones to even race-ready car parts for Formula 1 racing.  

Now, Dutch startup Tiamet3D wants to allow people to create similar high-strength parts on their existing FDM 3D printers without the need to purchase one of MarkForged’s pricey Mark One 3D printers.   

While the Mark One is capable of embedding 3D prints with Kevlar, the filament from Tiament3D is made from a proprietary composite material that contains nano-particles to makes the material stronger, stiffer and more heat resistant.  It can be printed similar to existing PLA and ABS filaments on printers that are capable of printing in the 210-400ºC range.  According to the Tiamet3D team, their material - which they’ve tested extensively at Delft University - may be the strongest desktop 3D printing filament in the world and is strong enough to compete with materials used on industrial 3D printers that cost considerably more than any desktop 3D printer offering.  

The team, which consists of a group of college students who met while studying in the Netherlands, consists of Tico Morales, Reid Larson and Jeffrey Karasawa.  In a recent interview with the Financial Daily, Larson briefly mentioned the moment where he knew that 3D printing held much more potential than where it currently stands.

Tico and Reid met while studying at Webster University, while they met Jeffery during a subsequent programme in the Netherlands. "We shared ideas about business, but we just didn't know wat business," Tico says. "I bought a 3D printer and quickly ran up against the limits of technology," he said. "There had to be a better way." The trio of designers began work on the business case, alongside two scientists from the Technical University Delft. After a year of lab work, the team is now ready to go to market with a composite of common polymer PEI and especially-developed nano parts. The claims of the team are currently being tested by a setup from the Universities of Maastrict, Delft and the Zuyd College.

If the team’s claims about the material are true, it could be another huge advancement in what is already becoming a prominent time for the near future additive manufacturing processes that are capable of producing application-ready parts, such as those for the aerospace industry.  

As Larson explained, Tiamet3D is expecting to unleash a real 3D printing revolution. One of the startup's partners is the 3D printer manufacturer MaukCC, which sells a 3D printer that – when combined with Tiamet3D's new filament – can produce the same results for €6000, as an industrial 3D printer would do for €185,000. "We are bringing industrial 3D printing to a market for just a twentieth of the current price," the American developer says in all seriousness. "This level of 3D printing will finally become accessible to small businesses, startups and emerging markets."

Of course, a filament that’s capable of producing aerospace engine-quality parts doesn’t come cheap though; the team estimates that the material will likely cost up to  €1,000 per kilo.  At that rate, it just might be cheaper to purchase a Mark One 3D printer for users who are need of high-strength 3D printed parts regularly. The patent request for the material has since been made. Though expensive and time-consuming, the startup is currently optimistic about their financial situation. Reid: "we believe we can continue to finance our business through preorders for now," though he adds that a strategic partner would be more than welcome. Dutch supplier of 3D printing technology Makerpoint has already agreed to incorporate the material into their catalogue.

"At Tiamet 3D we have developed a revolutionary method for creating 3D printing materials," says the company.  

"Our goal is to create better than industrial grade materials, for use in business and professional level filament deposit 3D printing. By creating a drop in replacement filament now almost any consumer grade 3D printer can print at higher strengths than ever before."

Over the past few months, Tiamet3D has been accepted into the Startup Boot Camp Smart Materials, a hotbed of starting entrepreneurs that can hone their businessplans over a period of three months, during which they are brought into contact with coaches and investors. 'Especially the contacts we gained were valuable,' co-founder Tico Morales explained. Among others, they came into contact with Chemelot Innovation and Learning Labs, as well as 3D printer manufacturer MaukCC. Patrick Gabriels, who co-founded Smart Materials, was also very optimistic about Tiamet3D's chances: "You don't see a lot of unique innovations in the 3D printing world anymore, but if this company can get their product out their quickly, they'll go very far."

The trio of developers are also very happy to be settled in the Netherlands which, in part due to 3DHubs and Shapeways, has gained a reputation of a leading 3D printing country. "The Netherlands is internationally renowned for its innovative drive", Tico tells reporters. "Nobody in Spain thinks it's weird that I've moved to Geleen. We would've never been as successful if we settled in the US." Reid adds: "It's relatively simple to begin a startup here."



Posted in 3D Printer Materials



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