A new 3D printing process for high performance polymers

ThermoMELT process
ThermoMELT process

Laser sintering of high performance polymers like PPS and PAEK is still challenging. The commercially available alternatives require specific laser sinter machines due to their high melting temperatures. During the build process the powder is exposed during tens of hours to high temperatures allowing no powder recycling due to massive aging effects. But it’s not only powder, also printed parts suffer from long heat exposure. At the end it is the high temperatures what makes laser sintering of high performance polymers even more expensive. Sintering at lower temperatures is the answer to give high performance polymers a perspective on the industrial additive manufacturing and the ThermoMELT process offers the solution.

Laser sintered PAEK sample part using ThermoMELT showing support structures (Photo Airbus Group Innovations)
Laser sintered PAEK sample part using ThermoMELT showing support structures (Photo Airbus Group Innovations)

A new development collaboration between Airbus Group Innovations, LSS Laser Sinter Service and Lehmann&Voss&Co. (brand Luvosint®) has been launched to bring ThermoMELT, a new 3D printing process developed by Airbus Group Innovations which will reduce the cost of producing high performance polymers by lowering required sintering temperatures, and other high performance materials to the market. German service bureau Rauch CNC will also join this collaboration as a partner for testing ThermoMELT and to ensure it fulfills market requirements.

ThermoMELT allows the production of parts using high performance materials in slightly modified commercial SLS machines which are already spread in the market. These modifications will provide better thermal and laser control to the system. Furthermore, the technology also significantly reduces the thermal aging effects during the manufacturing process, increasing recyclability and reducing costs, compared to standard additive layer manufacturing techniques. During the initial phase of ThermoMELT development hundreds of specimens were tested in order to assess the mechanical and physical properties of the resultant parts. The results are well above commercially available alternatives, with outstanding recyclability.