May 10, 2016 | By Alec

The advantages of 3D printing over injection molding are obvious. Especially for small product batches with complex geometries, a 3D printer is by far the easiest and most cost-effective solution. The only constant challenge has been to try and match the surface quality and structural properties of injection-molded parts. However, a team of Austrian researchers from the Technical University of Vienna (TU Wien) might have found a solution. They have developed a new 3D printer that can 3D print the high-viscosity polymers used in injection molding machines, and have combined the light processing technology of DLP 3D printers with the laser accuracy of SLA technology to optimize surface resolution.

This new 3D printing solution has been developed by a TU Wien group headed by Professor Jürgen Stampfl, who specializes in the development of new materials and complimentary 3D printers. They are constantly looking to efficiently adopt high quality plastics for 3D printing and improve the surface quality and mechanical properties of those parts. This is, they believe, the key to getting the 3D manufacturing revolution underway. This research of TU Wien was funded by the Horizon 2020 EU program with the project number 633192 (ToMax).

In particular, they have been focusing on those high-viscosity and impact-resistant polymers with fantastic surface finishes that are not yet available for 3D printers. Through a new 3D printing technology based on DLP (Digital Light Processing) tech, they now have harnessed those materials. As they explain, the Austrian engineers have built a 3D printer that relies on a DLP light source. While those usually harden complete areas in a single wave, they have combined the DLP light source with a precision laser (usually the forte of SLA 3D printers) to greatly increase the printing resolution.

What’s more, this new 3D printing solution has a wide range of material options at its disposal. While DLP and SLA 3D printers usually rely on inelastic thermosetting plastics such as (meth)acrylate and epoxides, the Austrian researchers have modified their resin system to accommodate a much wider variety of polymers, even those with high-viscosity and excellent impact strength properties. This makes it the first 3D printing system that can work with these polymers, which had been monopolized by injection molding. The Austrian design also accommodates numerous ceramics, such as aluminium oxide, zirconium oxide, bioglass® and tricalcium phosphate.

This paves the way towards a wide range of innovations. The researchers believe the thermomechanical properties of their 3D printed components can become superior to those of injection molded parts. Furthermore, they can be 3D printed at an excellent resolution of <20μm, making it possible to 3D print cellular structures with a wall thickness of just 100 µm. The current 3D printer model has a build space of 144 x 90 x 160 mm. “High-strength components that simultaneously feature a high elongation at fracture (e.g. snap fits) and, similarly, rubber-like parts (e.g. absorber elements) may be produced. Compared to conventional SLA materials, the impact strength of 40 kJ/m² and the elongation at fracture of 40% as well as the heat resistance have been increased considerably,” they reveal.

This interesting technological innovation could thus lead to a wider range of 3D printing applications. It represents, the Austrian developers say, a promising alternative to polymer injection molded parts that are designed to withstand high levels of mechanical stress. Combined with the geometric design freedom and resource efficiency of 3D printing, a lot is possible. And of course no expensive molding processes are necessary. Is this the solution that ushers in the real 3D printing revolution?



Posted in 3D Printer



Maybe you also like:


pizzaslice wrote at 5/11/2016 12:34:16 AM:

Is there a patent!?

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive