During various completed as well as currently running projects, the DMRC has managed to gather a lot of know-how in Polymer Laser Sintering. However, most of this concerns thermoplastic polymers, especially polyamide 12. Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) hold the potential to help fill in this gap. Their thermoplastic properties by principle allow them to be processed, while their more elastic (“rubberlike”) qualities open up an entirely new field of applications. EOS’s PrimePart ST is a PEBA (polyamide-based TPE) that was specifically developed for use in Laser Sintering. This project helps to gather more in-depth knowledge about the material’s properties. The two main fields for this knowledge are process and material data. Process data is being collected in order to fully control the process. Experience with process limits helps to achieve a high level of process reliability. After that, various tests will be carried out to determine material properties. This is a crucial point in determining useful applications and how to make optimal use of the qualities of the material.
The first part of the project consists of varying process parameters in order to develop a better understanding of the process and its limits. The most important parameters to be varied are the build temperature, part thickness and laser parameters.
Powder ageing is an important factor in polymer Laser Sintering. As PrimePart ST powder is repeatedly used, the quality of parts made from it declines over time. There is also no known test which can easily determine the thermal loading of the powder without building actual parts. The examination of powder ageing therefore plays an important role in this project. Tests include ageing powder in an oven or the LS machine and comparing them to virgin (untreated) powder using a variety of methods. If such a test is found, further tests will be carried out in order to quantify the powder ageing and to determine the impact on the part quality.
Elastic Part Properties
After gaining a first understanding of the processability of the material, part properties are going to be investigated using a wide variety of tests. This serves to learn about the material in more detail and qualify it for future applications. Another aspect of this part of the project is comparing parts built with similar parameters on different machines.
As a final part of the project, a case study will be performed in order to apply the gained knowledge and experience to an actual design. Once a study subject is determined, it has to be made sure that the design is suitable to be manufactured by Laser Sintering with PrimePart ST, otherwise, it will be modified accordingly. Once the part is produced, it will be tested according to the requirements for its application.