Materials in Additive Manufacturing – Polymers

Who’s got Russian roots, a beard of wizardly proportions and between 11 and 17 siblings? Well it couldn’t be anyone other than Dmitri Mendeleev. The number of siblings he had seems to be widely disputed among classical sources, but something that certainly isn’t, is his contributions to the field of chemistry during the 19th century.

 

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Mendeleev is famous for comparing the behaviour of the then known elements and their atomic weights to organise them into a logical order. Mendeleev’s early table coupled with the discovery of many more elements; some of which he even predicted and left gaps for, would eventually become the periodic table we all recognise today.

Not wanting to be out done by Dmitri Mendeleev, Tangram Technology has come up with their own spin on the period table by publishing the ‘Tangram Technology Periodic Table of Thermoplastics’. Tangram Technology argues that much like Mendeleev’s period table, polymers also have a strong relationship between their structure and properties.

 

This gave us at Stratasys Strategic Consulting the idea to see just how many different polymeric materials today’s 3D printing technologies are currently able to process. Before you scroll to the bottom for the juicy infographic, take a stab at it yourself. How many thermoplastics do you think the industry is currently able to process? Bearing in mind that Tangram identified over 70 thermoplastics on their original periodic table of polymers.

 

The results? Well it’s a bit of mixed bag, there’s certainly more materials available than you might expect, including ABS, PMMA, PC, PEI, PA, PEEK and PET. But, as you can also see, there are also many semi-crystalline, engineering and performance polymers waiting to be characterized for 3D printing.

It’s also worth noting that PLA is missing from the original table. However as Tangram Technology comments “the true diversity of all the polymer types makes it impossible to include all their variations in one simple table”.

 

 

 

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Next time we’ll be taking a break from polymers and looking into the latest arrivals on the metallic AM scene.