TPE for Additive Manufacturing with SLS Process
CRP Technology’s Windform RL touted as ideal for functional prototypes and parts.
When I saw this new product announcement from Italy’s CRP Technology (U.S. office in Mooresville, N.C.), I ventured that it would not be surprising to see other launches of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) type materials for additive manufacturing in the near future.
CRP has launched its first TPE material within its Windform family of materials. Designed for use with the SLS process, Windfrom RL powder is characterized as a durable TPE material with exceptional rubber-like distinguishing features.
Its mechanical properties make it well suited for additive manufacturing applications requiring complex geometries, where flexible characteristics are a key requisite to assure high-performance sealing power.
Said Franco Cevolini, CEO & technical director of CRP Group:
“We created Windform RL to provide complete and tailored end-to-end service to meet all our customers’ needs.”
Flexible parts made from Windform RL and stiff parts made with other Windform materials can be bonded together by epoxy resins or with mechanical joints.
RL boasts resistance to chemicals and heat and is said to combine superior tear resistance with burst strength. It has a Shore A hardness in the 45-to-80 range and is said to be ideal for functional rubber-like prototypes and parts, including gaskets, hoses and durable components for automotive and motorsport applications, as well as athletic footwear and equipment, and for all parts requiring excellent shock absorption.
The use of RL allows for the manufacture of “soft-touch” items with non-slip surfaces such as handles and overmolded grips. CRP says this is the material for simulating cast urethane, TPEs, rubber and silicone parts along with complex production, functional and F3 prototypes (prototypes to test form, fit, and function), and is also suitable for parts that require joining with adhesives.
Meanwhile, the company’s Windform RL Seal Infiltration is a method for strengthening, coloring and sealing Windform RL parts. Said to enhance the strength at break and to create a watertight barrier, it is available in wide range of colors.
Perhaps you have heard that additive manufacturing—a.k.a. 3D printing—can be used to make injection tooling inserts out of plastics—relatively quickly, at relatively low cost, and with little human labor involved.
Big Area Additive Manufacturing, or BAAM, is attracting entrepreneurs and machinery developers.
With advances in additive polymers, it may be time to consider moving a traditionally manufactured part to 3D printing.