3D Printing with 3M™ Dyneon™ PTFE
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3D printing with 3M™ Dyneon™ PTFE

  • 3M™ Dyneon™ PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) is a uniquely versatile material, used in everything from non-stick cookware to self-lubricating bearings – thanks to its almost universal chemical resistance and ability to withstand temperatures up to 260°C.

    However, because of its high melting temperature, PTFE cannot be processed using techniques such as injection molding or extrusion. Instead, PTFE parts are typically made using a combination of compression molding and sintering. This process can be expensive and can generate a considerable amount of waste. It also typically requires the development of custom tooling, which can make it difficult to take advantage of fast-turnaround opportunities.


  • A new frontier in PTFE processing

    Now, 3M has developed a proprietary 3D printing technology as a new and differentiated way to process PTFE and other fully-fluorinated polymers – enabling the fabrication of complex and small volume PTFE parts without the need for expensive traditional processing techniques.

    3D printing, or "additive manufacturing," is a process for manufacturing three-dimensional physical objects layer- by-layer using digital information instead of molds and tools. This new manufacturing process promises to offer increased flexibility for plastics manufacturers – and could potentially open a wide range of new opportunities that were impractical or impossible using traditional processing techniques.

  • A new way of doing business

    By using a 3D printing process, it may be feasible to quickly and economically produce one-off prototypes of PTFE parts for testing; output small runs of a few dozen pieces for market research purposes; or produce on-demand replacement parts, rather than maintaining extensive (and expensive) inventories.

    Equally important, this revolutionary 3D printing process will allow customers to take advantage of PTFE’s unique properties in an almost unlimited number of new applications – thanks to its ability to produce parts with complex geometries, voids and undercuts that are impossible to achieve using traditional dies and molds.


What is “yield strength,” and how does it affect my selection of material and processing method?

  • Yield strength is the stress point at which permanent deformation of a plastic part begins. Many parts need to operate below their yield point in order to maintain their original shape and elasticity.

    In some materials, such as PTFE, the yield point is not easily defined, because no clear yield point appears over the course of the stress-strain curve. In these cases, an approximation called “offset yield strength” is determined. For PTFE, the stress at which 10% permanent deformation occurs is often used.

    In the figure below, the average offset yield strength of a sintered, 3D printed PTFE test specimen is compared to a sintered die cut PTFE test specimen, manufactured using traditional processing methods. The 3D printed part was tested in the build plane (parallel to printed layers).

  • Offset yield strength of 3D printed structures

    Offset yield strength of 3D printed structures:

    Data not for specification. Tensile specimen based on ASTM D1708 (thickness: 1.5 mm) tested at 12.7 mm per minute extension at room temperature.

  • In this test, the 3D printed specimen exhibited similar performance, in the direction parallel to the printed layers, to the traditionally produced specimen. This indicates that 3D printing of PTFE parts may be a viable option for many specialized applications. Additional development and benchmarking work is currently underway at 3M to optimize the performance of this emerging technology.


Are 3D-printed PTFE parts strong enough to be practical?

  • Tensile test measurements based on a dog-bone sample
    Tensile test measurements based on a dog-bone sample.
    Punched from a horizontal 3D-printed sheet of PTFE (ASTM D1708).

    Due to its unique nature, PTFE is not melt processible, which is why it is not injection molded or extruded. A critical step to achieve mechanical integrity in the finished part is fusion of the PTFE particles, accomplished in conventional processing methods by compression molding and sintering.

    While not intended to exactly replicate existing PTFE processing technology, 3D printing does accomplish a similar fusion of PTFE particles. Test results show that this process can yield parts with mechanical strength suitable for a wide range of applications.

    The two characteristics related to the material’s mechanical strength are tensile strength and elongation at break, which are often part of the initial screening for specific applications.

    To test these values, a PTFE part was 3D printed to simulate a sintered die cut specimen. The part was then tested in build plane (parallel to printed layers). The resulting average values were 23 MPa tensile strength and 240% elongation at break.* These test results indicate that 3D-printed PTFE parts may achieve mechanical strength suitable for many applications, while allowing greater flexibility and potential cost savings for prototyping and short-run, specialized parts.

    *Data not for specification. Tensile specimen based on ASTM D1708 (thickness: 1.5 mm) tested at 12.7 mm per minute extension at room temperature.


Can 3D printing help achieve a smoother, more accurate surface finish?

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates three-dimensional objects directly from digital information, avoiding the use of tooling. While both standard 3D printing and tooling processes can leave layer steps or machining marks behind on a surface, our new 3D printing process for PTFE can achieve a degree of smoothness not typically obtainable with conventional printing or machining.

This difference is demonstrated by a microscopic comparison of printed and machined PTFE parts with dome-shaped features. Microscopy of the 2mm dome-shape example below illustrates a superior surface finish on PTFE parts made using a 3D printing technique called stereolithography. These images show that stereolithography leaves minimal “layer step” formations that can be noticeable on parts made by other 3D printing techniques.

Certain applications in the food, pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries requiring low roughness and low surface adhesion may benefit from this technology. That’s because, with smoother surfaces, cross-contamination and microbial growth may be minimized. Cleaning processes may also be streamlined. This may translate into increased efficiency and service life of the PTFE part.

  • Top view of a printed PTFE part with dome-shaped features.

    Top view of a printed PTFE part with dome-shaped features. Produced at 3M laboratories.

  • Top view of a machined PTFE part with dome-shaped features.

    Top view of a machined PTFE part with dome-shaped features. Produced by an external machine shop.

  • Top view of a small printed PTFE cogwheel, produced at 3M laboratories.
    Top view of a small printed PTFE cogwheel, produced at 3M laboratories.

    Dimensional resolution and accuracy

    These parts printed by stereolithography not only provide a good surface finish, but also have high dimensional resolution. Therefore, fine PTFE structures of less than 1 mm in dimension can be achieved.

    Furthermore, the design flexibility offered by AM techniques can be maximized, particularly benefitting miniaturized technical parts, lightweight structures and applications requiring parts with a high level of detail.


Does 3D printing affect the density of PTFE parts?

  • Density range of PTFE parts
    Density range of PTFE parts produced by conventional technologies
    *Density measurements were performed by the displacement method referring to ASTM D792-13.

    Density is one of the most significant properties of PTFE. Density data allow for conclusions about processing conditions, like cooling rate after sintering, and about certain properties, like flex life or permeability – all of which affect the quality of a PTFE part.

    To test how 3D printing might affect part density, 3M printed a variety of PTFE parts up to approximately 1.4 mm thickness using stereolithography. Stereolithography has been identified as the optimal 3D printing process for PTFE and other fully fluorinated polymers.

    Test results on the samples produced show density values of 2.12 to 2.17g/cm³ which is within the typical range of conventionally processed material.

    These PTFE test parts were then analyzed using a scanning electron microscope, and compared with similar parts produced by machining.

    As you can see, the results are similar in both the printed and machined cross-sectional SEM pictures.

  • Cross section of a 3D printed PTFE part

    Cross section of a 3D printed PTFE part (freeze fractured).

  • Cross section of a machined PTFE part

    Cross section of a machined PTFE part (freeze fractured).


3D Printing Videos

  • 3D Printing with 3M Revealed on K2016

    3D Printing with 3M Revealed on K 2016

     

  • 3D Printing with PTFE

    3D Printing with PTFE

     


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3D Printing News

  • 3M at the Fakuma 2017: Hall B4, Booth 4406, Press Release (October 2017)

    3M at the Fakuma 2017: Hall B4, Booth 4406

    3D printing with PTFE and lightweight construction solutions with 3M Glass Bubbles

    Together with its subsidiary Dyneon, the multi-technology company 3M will be presenting two trailblazing plastic technologies at this year's industry meeting place, the Fakuma international trade fair for plastics processing in Friedrichshafen. Visitors will learn how the additive manufacture with fluoropolymers by mouse-click works and will see exciting applications of 3M Glass Bubbles in plastics.

    3M has developed and applied for a patent for a new technology: for the first time ever, fully fluorinated polymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) can be processed by means of a 3D printing method. The new process enables the manufacture of components and the integration of several functions in one moulded part – at the click of a mouse and entirely without tools.

    New laboratory printer, new experiments

    Dyneon is working on the additive manufacture of fluoropolymer components at its Burgkirchen site. The company will be demonstrating the current state of research on the additive manufacture with PTFE at the Fakuma. This new additive process will be used for the creation of prototypes and small series with complex geometries for the aerospace and chemical industries, in medical equipment manufacturing and in semiconductor factories.

    A versatile filler: 3M Glass Bubbles

    Spherical, hollow and with a glass shell – these are the three main characteristics of 3M Glass Bubbles that give them their special properties: easy to process, thermally insulating, fast cooling or as a white pigment, to name just a few. There is one thing that 3M Glass Bubbles cannot do, however: being heavy. Therefore, they are ideal for use in the megatrend lightweight construction and can already be found in every fifth car today. At the Fakuma, 3M's Advanced Materials division will show that Glass Bubbles have also proven their value in thermoplastic materials and will promote a better understanding of the filler with useful tools such as the "Weight-Volume Calculator."

    New: Glass Bubbles partner program

    3M is currently setting up a Glass Bubbles partner program. What can the spheres do, how can they be incorporated into thermoplastic matrices with maximum efficiency and what needs to be observed to obtain the desired properties? To provide best possible expertise to customers, these and other questions will be answered in partner training courses in addition to checking the correct processing. The intention is to ensure that processors and end users of 3M Glass Bubbles obtain competent support.

    The 25th edition of the Fakuma, the international trade fair for plastics processing, takes place from 17 to 21 October 2017 in Friedrichshafen. 3M and Dyneon are exhibiting in Hall B4 at Booth 4406.

    About 3M

    At 3M, we apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily. With over $30 billion in sales, our 90,000 employees connect with customers all around the world. Learn more about 3M’s creative solutions to the world’s problems at www.3M.com.

    3M and Dyneon are trademarks of the 3M Company.

  • 3M to unveil new 3D printing technology at the K show, Press Release (October 2016)

    3D printing of fluoropolymers allows more design freedom

    3M to unveil new 3D printing technology at the K show

    3M has developed a patent-pending technology to 3D print fully fluorinated polymers that will be introduced at the K show in Dȕsseldorf, the world’s leading trade fair for plastics and rubber. This new technology is particularly exciting for PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) applications and is aimed at the Automotive, Chemical Processing, Medical as well as Energy and Aerospace markets.

    The new development, which complements fluoropolymer processing, allows 3D printing as an additional and differentiated way of processing fully fluorinated polymers. In this way the fabrication of complex structures is possible, which otherwise cannot be produced or only produced with expensive traditional processing techniques.

    This flexible new technology, which 3M and its subsidiary Dyneon will introduce for the first time, paves the way for the production of polymer structures in a single processing step rather than moulding and assembling component parts.

    The new development allows for 3D printing of spare parts and customised designs with a complex geometry on demand without needing to use expensive traditional processing techniques. Using this method, 3M is pioneering the 3D printing of PTFE that is used in a wide range of applications such as sealing and lining.

    Stereolithography is the chosen process

    3M has selected stereolithography, also known as Vat Polymerization, as the Additive Manufacturing process method for PTFE and other fully fluorinated polymers. The printed parts show similar physical properties to those produced using traditional processing techniques. Stereolithography involves the curing or solidification of a photosensitive material using an irradiation light source. Typical tailor-made formulations used for 3D printing fully fluorinated polymers by stereolithography contain in addition to fully fluorinated polymers a binder and optional additives. The three processing steps required are aqua gel formation, drying and removal of the binder during heat treatment. This method can be used for PTFE compounds, too.

    More freedom of design

    "This additional new manufacturing process for fully fluorinated polymers will benefit a wide range of industries, such as Automotive, Chemical Processing, Medical and Aerospace by accelerating product design cycles and allowing more freedom of design," says Paula Johnson-Mason, Global Director Fluoropolymers.

    "3D printing is developing at a rapid pace and will deliver increased flexibility and productivity for industrial markets. That way spare parts and customised designs can be manufactured digitally on demand without the need to create new tools."

    Please visit our booth at the K show: Hall 5, booth B10.

    About 3M

    3M is a science-based company with a culture of creative collaboration that inspires powerful technologies, making life better. With $32 billion in sales, 3M employs 90,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNewsroom on Twitter

    3M and Dyneon are trademarks of the 3M Company.

  • Patent-pending solution for 3D printing from 3M, Press Release (September 2016)

    Patent-pending solution for 3D printing from 3M
    3D printing complements fluoropolymer processing

    3M has developed a patent-pending technology to 3D print fully fluorinated polymers. This technology allows 3D printing as an additional and differentiated way of processing fully-fluorinated polymers. In this way the fabrication of complex structures is possible, which otherwise cannot be produced or only produced with expensive traditional processing techniques. 3M is pioneering 3D printing with PTFE.

    Commonly known as 3D printing, Additive Manufacturing is the key term for directly manufacturing three-dimensional physical objects layer by layer using digital information. Print-on-demand solutions for fluoropolymer based spare parts and custom parts with complex geometry are potential articles to be 3D printed. The technology is particularly exciting for the fluoropolymer PTFE.

    This flexible new technology, which 3M and its subsidiary Dyneon will introduce at the K show in Dusseldorf for the first time, paves the way for the production of polymer structures in a single processing step rather than moulding and assembling component parts. The development also makes it possible to 3D print spare parts and customised designs on demand without needing to use expensive traditional processing techniques.

    As part of the development, 3M is pioneering the 3D printing of PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) which is used in a wide range of applications such as sealing and lining.

    3D printing developing at a rapid pace.

    "3D printing is developing at a rapid pace and is opening up a number of exciting developments for the manufacturing of fully-fluorinated polymers, particularly for PTFE which is a real quantum leap,” says Paula Johnson-Mason, Global Director Fluoropolymers. “This additional new manufacturing process will give us increased flexibility and accelerate product design cycles as spare parts can be manufactured digitally without the need to create new tools."

    Better for the environment

    The new technology also offers a more sustainable manufacturing solution due to potential material savings and a reduction in waste. This is achieved as the traditional method for creating prototype parts from PTFE creates significant waste. With 3D printing, however, waste is minimal and unused material can be used for subsequent printing jobs.

    Please visit our booth at the K show: Hall 5, booth B10.

    About 3M

    3M is a science-based company with a culture of creative collaboration that inspires powerful technologies, making life better. With $32 billion in sales, 3M employs 90,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNewsroom on Twitter

    3M and Dyneon are trademarks of the 3M Company.


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