Coming from a background in the plastics industry, we didn't start by trying to make incremental improvements to existing 3D printing materials, we started from our knowledge of polyolefins (polypropylene, polyethylene and mixtures of the two) and matched the polymers to the technology of 3D printing.
From our work in the polymer industry, we know that these plastics can be moulded, extruded, blown and foamed into a massive range of products from food packaging and children’s toys to medical implants and orthotics. It seemed a perfect match to put the most versatile family of plastics into the most versatile manufacturing technology – 3D printing.
So why hasn’t someone done it before? Well, there are some pure polypropylene filaments on the market but in reality, no one wants to use them, because on its own, polypropylene can be a pig to print with.
In developing our polyolefin filaments, we’ve experimented with over 40 combinations of selected polyolefins (so far) to try to create a filament that prints beautifully, supports overhangs and has just the right amount of plate adhesion so that it stays in place without warping but comes away easily at the end of the print; to make polyolefins a real alternative material for printing.
One of the reasons we like working with polyolefins is that they are really clean. By that I mean, there are no nasty chemicals involved in the production of the raw material, there are no solvents or volatiles needed to put them through an extruder, we don’t include any additives that could be harmful to the environment, so the risk of human or environmental damage from a polyolefin at any point in its lifecycle is minimal. And another plus is that the whole lot can be endlessly recyclable and in a more sustainable way than for many other plastics. So long as the plastic is clean and doesn’t get burnt or damaged by processing at too high a temperature, polyolefin polymers can be ground down and re-melted into new plastic products over and over again.