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Fine Silica Fillers Improve Performance and Reduce the Cost of 3D Printing Resins

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3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating solid three-dimensional objects, layer by layer, with the use of computer design modeling. It is commonly used to make prototypes and models used for market research, testing and validation purposes. Because 3D printing speeds up the prototyping process, it enables manufacturers to bring new products to market faster.

The process also reduces waste because the raw material is added only where needed one layer at a time, and it provides a more cost-efficient way to make products in small batches.

Additive manufacturing also reduces prototyping costs because it eliminates the need to create a mold that is necessary in traditional manufacturing processes like injection molding. During the prototyping phase, 3D printing enables manufacturers to easily modify the design by tweaking the computer file, saving time, money and labor.

Increasing Use of Additive Manufacturing

3D printing is poised to grow into a major industrial manufacturing process, as the development of new technologies is accelerating at a rapid pace. Industry experts anticipate that by the end of 2021, 3D printing will contribute in part to the manufacture of 20% of global consumer goods. In addition, recent research indicates that the global additive manufacturing market is expected to reach $26.68 billion by 2027, growing at an annual rate of 14.4%. Currently, 3D-printed parts are already widely used in aerospace, automotive and medical industries applications.

Use of Fine Silica Gels in 3D Resins

3D printing processes are categorized into three groups: photopolymerization, material extrusion and powder bed fusion. VAT photopolymerization is the most common method, and it includes stereolithography (SL/SLA) and digital light processing (DLP). These processes use liquid resins that are cured under a light source to produce 3D printed parts.

The four most common types of 3D printing resins—acrylates, methacrylates, epoxides and polyesters—are formulated with specialty fillers to improve their performance characteristics. Spherical, pure fine silica gels work well to enhance product quality, increase property performance and improve processing efficiencies.

AGC’s SOLESPHERE™ family of fine silica gels with different particle sizes and porosities are very spherical, very pure and enhance many functionalities for 3D printing resin formulations. Using SOLESPHERE fine silica gels as fillers can reduce the cost of 3D printing build resins. They can also add desirable performance characteristics like dimensional stability, temperature properties and tensile strength.

The nonporous SOLESPHERE grades make ideal fillers for resin compounds used in VAT polymerization processes. Objects made with resins enhanced with SOLESPHERE fine silicas are used in automotive, electronics, jewelry and aerospace applications.

Mitigate Viscosity and Phase Separation

When 3D printing resin formulations are highly loaded with fillers, viscosity and phase separation can be difficult to control. Resin formulations with higher viscosities decrease workability and processing speeds. SOLESPHERE silica gels are very spherical and have a smooth surface, which lowers the viscosity in resin formulations. Their particle size is larger than that of other silica offerings, providing lower surface areas.

SOLESPHERE gels also form a matrix with typical 3D printing resins and other additives, providing viscosity stability over time.

Phase separation is another challenge with 3D printing resin formulations. SOLESPHERE’s functional surface chemistry provides a network within the polymer matrix, keeping the elements in suspension. This helps prevent phase separation and delays the settling process in the resin during storage.

Boost Performance Properties

SOLESPHERE silica gels offer other advantages as filler materials for 3D resin formulations. With purity over 99%, they do not negatively affect the viscosity or physical properties of the formulations, and they do not alter the chemical or physical interactions in the polymer matrix. And their low particle size distribution provides consistent results for each batch of material. Their active chemical surface enables good chemical bonding and interactions with resins and other fillers.

Additional benefits include:

  • High tensile strength
  • Increased stiffness/flexural strength
  • Improved dimensional stability
  • Easy dispersion in polymer matrix
  • Thermal resistance and improved heat deflection temperature
  • Prevention of soft polymer blocking in powder fusion processes

To learn more about SOLESPHERE fine silica gels for 3D printing resin formulations, visit https://www.agcchem.com/products/fine-silica-gels-3d-printing-resins/.

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