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3D Printing With Pellets

The next evolution in 3D printing (aka Additive Manufacturing) technology is printing with plastic pellets. Typically, 3D printers have used filament created by melting the plastic pellets, then extruding the filament onto a spool. The spool is loaded into the 3D printer where it lays down the filament in layers into the proscribed shape.

Last fall a new printer was announced called the Sculptify David. This printer removes the step of melting the plastic pellets and extruding filament and just uses the typical plastics technology of melting the pellets. David uses open source software and fused layer extrusion (FLEX) technology to make objects with a number of flexible materials including PLA, EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane, and ABS.

There are several new printers in the development stage – some on Kickstarter trying to get funding – and many mainstream printers that are evolving their technology to use pellets as a way to reduce the cost of the materials. Arburg’s “freeformer” – a combination of substractive and additive manufacturing – provides some unique advantages. It was a featured product at the recent NPE2015 show in Orlando.

The Arburg “freeformer” is mobile, flexible and produces fully functional parts immediately making prototyping obsolete, claimed Arburg. It gives molders and mold makers the freedom to meet demand for small batches of test parts or for marketing purposes, and in a cost effective manner. The Arburg “freeformer” is easy to use, said the company, and can produce parts in ABS, PC, TPEs and PA12.

Over the past two decades we have watched the 3D printing industry grow through the development of bigger and better printers and with the ability to use more mainstream polymer materials. The industry has also gone from translucent and black materials, to many different colors to meet any number of requirements for end-use parts.

That’s where Plastics Color can step in to help you find just the right color for your products. Working with your product engineers we can help you develop the perfect material and color to help you create the most optimum parts. Whether they are for market testing, product testing or for small batch end-use parts, Plastics Color can offer you concentrates or masterbatches for the 3D printers that use straight-up pellets.

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