OK, so you’ve heard of the newest 3D printing materials to hit the market – Forefront Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO) Filaments, but what are they really? And what makes them so good to print with?
Forefront Filament’s first two commercial products - F43 TOUGH or F41 FLEX - are based on polypropylene and have been engineered specifically for the FDM/FFF 3D printing process, so they bring you all of the great properties of polypropylene in a form that your 3D printer can handle, opening up new design and manufacturing possibilities. We’ve put together a few examples that demonstrate what Forefront’s polyolefin filaments can do.
Closures and clips
Screw caps, snap-fit catches, clips and push-on lids are all commonly made from PP, as it is strong, durable and will flex a little bit under pressure, preventing it from snapping. Depending on how much flex you need in your closure, F43 TOUGH or F41 FLEX would fit the bill for this application and both options offer the benefit of having no stress-whitening – fantastic for living hinge closures.
Polyolefins are non-toxic, non-brittle plastics that don’t absorb water, don’t release any fumes and don’t leach chemicals in use or during printing. Considering this alongside their durability and soft-touch surface (compared to ABS and PLA), Forefront Filaments are great choice for printing children’s toys.
Food contact applications
Polypropylene is commonly used in food applications such as plastic cutlery, crockery, Tupperware, thermoformed trays, films, pouches and bottles. While 3D printed items can’t be fully classified as “food-safe” (read our blog “Is 3D Printing Safe for Food Contact?”), polypropylene and polyethylene are classified food-safe plastics and also have the advantage of no moisture-ingress, high-temperature resistance and high chemical (e.g. acid) resistance, so they are better than most filaments for these applications. Plus, they’re dishwasher safe (we recommend the eco-wash setting).
Given the smooth-touch surface and subtle flexibility of F43 TOUGH; and the gloss-finish and soft flexibility of F41 FLEX, Forefront polyolefin filaments can be used to print anything that needs to be handled. They print corners that are crisp, but not sharp. They print curves that yield without cracking. Parts that feel firmly solid without brittleness and enclosures that slot into place without scratching or scraping.
These filaments are made from the same plastics that are used to make things like sandwich boxes, electronic product housings, phone cases, remote controls and baby bottles. They’re familiar plastics that are safe and comfortable to handle.
3D printing can be a brilliant tool for the home handyman, particularly when you need to buy or replace a non-standard part. Anything that needs to be strong and durable to be used over and over, like a door-catch, or something that can withstand impact and loading, like a furniture foot, Forefront Filament’s F43 TOUGH in particular, has all the right properties to meet these demands.
For environmental applications, where use of resources over the lifetime of the product is a key consideration, polyolefins perform well compared to other plastics. As shown in the infographic below (from Selfeco Green Design MIT Institute of Design), in production, PP uses less water, electricity and CO2 than PET or EPS (expanded polystyrene typically used for food service) and less water than PLA. 3D printing is also a great manufacturing process, with significantly reduced waste compared to subtractive manufacturing methods.
In re-use and recycling, PP performance is similar to or better than PET for retention of physical and mechanical properties following re-grind and re-melt during the recycling process; whereas PLA and EPS cannot be recycled in this way without significant losses in performance, leading to typical single-use applications for these plastics.
Add to this the fact that Forefront polyolefins are free from any toxins, non-leaching, non-absorbent and practically chemically inert, and they fit many more of the requirements of environmental installations than other plastics.
We named our filaments TOUGH and FLEX, to indicate their primary physical functions, but Forefront polyolefins offer so much more, for a wide range of applications. They are…
· Non-brittle, impact resistant
· Soft and smooth to the touch
· Suitable for clips, screw caps and living hinges
· Safe during processing and in use
· Recyclable and economic in production
· Water and moisture resistant
· Dishwasher safe
· Chemically resistant
…which means that you can use them just about anywhere!
Here’s a list of links to the designs featured in this blog:
Screw cap coffee bag closure - http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:40593
Low poly Bulbasaur toy - http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:327753
Fork/spoon instant tongs - http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1187499
Furniture foot - http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:59061