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„Next on my wish list is a …“

3D printing has ushered in a revolution where amateur artists and prototype manufacturers alike can make their wishes come true. 3D printing allows the creation of diverse 3-dimensional objects within the confines of one’s own living room. Entrepreneurs in particular profit from the flexibility of 3D printing as it facilitates the production of prototypes and work pieces. PLA filaments are widely used today in 3D printing. The GRAFE Group offers its customers suitable and individual formulations for 3D printing.


Let’s take a quick look back at the history of printing. The printing process began in the 7th century with wood block printing. This technique involved carving out the mirror images of letters in a wooden block. Color was then applied to the raised lines in the wooden block and then pressed on to paper. A short time thereafter, the letters made of wood, copper, brass or lead, were formed into words and placed together on standardized blocks. The invention of offset printing in 1846/47 marked a breakthrough in the field. In more recent times, the advent of the needle printer on the market brought printing into the home. Then ink jet printers came adding color to home printing. These have since been replaced by home laser printers.


The development of CAD programs in the 1980’s marked the birth of 3D models. At that time, 3D printing was used for the production of prototypes. The technology surrounding the process was developed further and over time became less expensive, smaller and more affordable for personal use. The invention of 3D printing is used for the cost-efficient realization of single parts as well as for projects in the hobby and art sectors. In comparison to conventional injection molding, 3D printing allows companies to manufacture small numbers of prototypes without changing or producing expensive molds. However, in order to take advantage of this comparatively inexpensive and creative option, special materials are needed which must be formulated specifically to match customer applications.


Reactor PLA can only with much effort be used to produce PLA filaments. Normally the material undergoes a customization process using appropriate additives for the individual application. When pigments are fed into the formulation during compounding or through the masterbatches, further components are added. The additional materials in turn alter the viscosity and the result is impaired processability. This presents a great challenge for the manufacturers of PLA and ABS filaments. The addition of pigments in general impairs process reliability and the consistent dimensional accuracy of the filaments. Consistent dimensional accuracy of the filaments is, however, a prerequisite for accurate printing and good structural development of the component.


GRAFE provides users of 3D printers with the right materials. Newly developed additive masterbtches can raise quality, efficiency and extrusion capacity. The thermoplastic PLA has a huge advantage over other plastics. Besides being easy to handle, the material displays minimal warp upon cooling so that the work piece maintains greater dimensional accuracy. High UV-resistance, low flammability and easy processing are additional features of this thermoplastic polymer. Environmentally conscious end consumers whose decisions reflect concern for the ecological balance may also favor this material. In contrast to petroleum-based raw materials, bio-based poly-lactic acids are industrially compostable and thus better for the environment.

The additive masterbatch facilitates the processability of PLA materials in other applications and industries as well. Important factors include consistent dimensional accuracy in film extrusion, improved thermal resistance during processing, easier post-processing and cutting of PLA films, as well as easier deep drawability.


Visit the GRAFE-Stand at the FAKUMA: Hall B5, Stand 5306.


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