In part one of this blog, I explained why Forefront thinks that polyolefins have a big role to play in the future of 3D printing. I also set out to explain why, to date, their benefits have yet to be exploited when it comes to this, still relatively new, manufacturing technology.
We think there are two reasons for the delay in uptake of polyolefins in 3D printing. The first was discussed in part one of this blog; the second is that, because 3D printing is still a novel technology, polymer manufacturers are only now starting to take it seriously.
While polyolefins are big business in traditional manufacturing, those companies that sell, market and handle polyolefins generally class them as ‘commodity polymers’ – a family of polymers that are sold at fairly low prices in enormous quantities into long-established applications. The 3D printing market, in comparison, is just too small for polymer companies to take notice of. (For example, last year approximately 150,000 kT (1000’s of metric tonnes) of polyolefins were sold, but the total global market for polymers in 3D printing was, depending on your information source, somewhere in the region of 1 kT – that’s small fry!)
The result of the polyolefin industry’s ‘commodity’ mind-set is that the large companies that make the polymers are rarely the first to begin exploring new polymer processing technologies like 3D printing. They’re simply considered too small to be worth their investment unless there is a quick and easy selling opportunity for an existing single grade of their materials.
As discussed in the first part of this blog, existing single polymer grades do not easily suit the application of 3D printing. Forefront Filament has spent 18 months (on top of its 20+ years in the polyolefin industry) working to combine specific grades, from the thousands of individual polyolefin grades available, in order to bring all of the benefits of polyolefins to the world of 3D printing. Our hope is that we can bring better solutions to the table, as the technology continues to move out of the spare bedroom and onto the production line.
Give our filaments a try, and let us know what you think.