Though for years polymer-based 3D printing technologies were either regarded as limited to prototyping applications or to the low-demand maker community, recent developments both on the hardware and materials fronts are helping the technology establish itself as a key resource for advanced industrial applications. Playing an important role in this diversification is a group of high performance materials, known broadly as advanced polymers.
These materials, which include various composites and industrial plastics like PAEK (Polyaryletherketone) family polymers, are enabling manufacturers to 3D print functional prototypes and even end-use parts for a range of industrial applications—something which had previously been a challenge using thermoplastic filament extrusion (FDM/FFF) machines.
Across the industry, chemical and materials companies are increasingly developing advanced materials—which have largely been established in industrial manufacturing for years—specifically for use in additive manufacturing. Many 3D printer hardware manufacturers are also working closely with these companies to adapt the 3D printing hardware for the materials, ultimately seeking optimization on both fronts.
It is through this collaborative nature of the industry that we are today seeing new possibilities for additive manufacturing and advanced polymers. And though the landscape for these materials is changing on a regular basis, here is a snapshot of the current state of advanced materials and their applications.