Creating a New 3D Printing Filament – How BigRep Made Pro HT

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“When 3D printing started, everybody was printing ABS. It is one of the most common materials used in injection molding. Everybody wanted to replicate it in 3D printing.”

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a thermoplastic, and previously seen as the ideal kind of material for 3D printing extrusion. Using it is not exactly simple though, says BigRep’s Materials Product Manager Markus Bucher, “You need a very controlled ambient temperature to print ABS, which is difficult to achieve. ABS is also not so safe, in terms of the toxic fumes being emitted while melting, so we cannot tweak the machine to reach those temperatures.”

BigRep had plans for printing with a filament stronger than ABS, so the team set about engineering a solution with similar properties. The result: BigRep’s Pro HT.

They managed to find a material with thermal stability comparable with that of ABS, as well as making it easy to handle – it is printable in a similar way to BigRep PLA on the BigRep ONE, in an open build space. Bucher wanted the renewable material to present with good adhesion to the print bed, minimal shrinking and warpage, which they achieved.

Once they had the temperature resistance fixed (115°C) Bucher and the team tested their new material internally, with a new in-house materials verification system. They scouted for materials suppliers and got their certifications in order.

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As well as designing and manufacturing the highest quality large 3D printers, BigRep is dedicated to material innovation of this kind. BigRep’s materials engineers look in detail at every parameter, consistently fine-tune current materials and when looking to release another 3D printing filament, feedback is always followed by more fine-tuning of the parameters. It is a difficult yet worthwhile process, particularly in the case of Pro HT and engineering-grade materials.

“We were one of the first companies to release a filament with a matte finish, and for that we received a lot of good feedback,” said Bucher, speaking on the positive response from customers who have been happy with the properties of Pro HT. Bucher says the black color filament has been the most popular product in the Pro HT range. It is also available in Nature and Silver colors.

Given its high-level heat resistance, Pro HT is an ideal candidate filament for 3D-printed functional rapid prototyping in industrial settings and is a high-strength, weather-proof filament.

For example, in designing and printing an aesthetically fascinating wheel rim prototype, BigRep Designer Marco Mattia Cristofori says Pro HT was the best filament for the job. “For the angles and declination of the print design, Pro HT properties were ideal,” said Cristofori. “It allowed us to create a highly accurate model for functional testing.” BigRep True Support PVA (water-soluble material) was used with PLA for the rim prototype, then black Pro HT was chosen for the final product, due to its sleek matte finish.

BigRep continually works with clients across a variety of industries on custom material solutions for their individual business applications. As well as the recent release of TPU-based filament Pro FLEX, the materials team has much more in store for the coming months, so stay tuned!

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