NatureWorks will boost its 3D printing biopolymer division with new Ingeo grades and dedicated lab

Published on: Tuesday, 12 May 2015
NatureWorks will boost its 3D printing biopolymer division with new Ingeo grades and dedicated lab

NatureWorks, a biopolymer manufacturer, is taking 3D printing seriously as a key market share in the bio-based plastics business. The company has announced a move to support the 3D market comprehensively based on a three pronged approach.

The company will include an entirely new series of Ingeo (one of NatureWorks brands) grades designed specifically for PLA filament for the 3D printing market; a full suite of technical support services for the additive manufacturing industry’s leading 3D printer and filament producers; and the creation of an in-house print lab, enabling the company to rapidly test new Ingeo formulations and collaborate with printer and filament producers.

NatureWorks is the leading PLA supplier with more than 20 different Ingeo grades, expertise with numerous specialized formulations, and more than a decade of world-scale production experience. In the 3D printing market, and particularly for desktop users, PLA filament has become a material of first choice in printing. The material’s low polymer thermal shrinkage allows high resolution printing for part accuracy and avoids warping of parts. Strong polymer fusing performance makes PLA easy to use and enhances performance. A relatively low melt point enables safe lower temperature printing, and very low emissions means no unpleasant odors when printing.

For the past 18 months, NatureWorks has engaged directly with 3D filament suppliers, printer manufacturers, and print operators to obtain first hand feedback on the needs of the 3D printing market. “3D printing has the rapid pace of innovation, development, and change that is normal to a new and still nascent market,” said Dan Sawyer, Global Leader, New Business Segment, NatureWorks. “Many new suppliers are entering the PLA filament market, while a breadth of experienced suppliers large and small are formulating and compounding to provide additional filament properties and options. That’s the sort of innovation that NatureWorks is aggressively moving to support and amplify with our new broad-based initiative.”

With the launch of its initiative, NatureWorks is immediately offering the first grade in its new Ingeo 3D series. Denoted Ingeo 3D850, this base 3D grade takes advantage of the latest Ingeo polymer chemistries to provide a good overall balance of processability in filament production, filament consistency, and print quality. It is also designed to provide optimum performance for those looking to enhance the properties of PLA through further formulation and compounding to extend part properties beyond what base PLA grades provide.

“What we learned from our market engagement,” said Sawyer, “is that a large segment of the market prefers to print with PLA and would like to replace petroleum-based ABS if PLA can rival the other material’s heat resistance and the toughness of finished parts.” To enable this substitution, NatureWorks has been working on the next offering in its new Ingeo 3D series with extended-property-range Ingeo 3D resin formulations. PLA filament produced from new higher heat and toughness Ingeo formulations are now being tested in NatureWorks’ newly established in-house print lab, with market introduction targeted for later in the year.

NatureWorks has developed a full suite of filament melt processing guides, technical data sheets, and other technical service resources for printer manufacturers and filament producers. Furthermore, NatureWorks personnel are developing close working relationships with key regional suppliers. For those interested in purchasing Ingeo based PLA filament, the company has produced the NatureWorks 3D Printing Suppliers Guide, which includes 3Dom Filaments, Diamond Age Solutions, Kingfa, MakerBot, Plastrude, Polymaker or TLC Korea.

The new NatureWorks 3D printing lab employs multiple printers for assessing the performance and quality of new Ingeo formulations, both in printer operation and in the final printed part. This lab shortens time to market for new Ingeo grades in the 3D series and aids collaboration with printer and filament producers.

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