If you have a production level 3D printer like a Stratasys Fortus System, there is a possibility that you have worked with soluble support materials. It has been a phenomenal addition to 3D printing technology, allowing for more freedom when designing hollow points and complex geometries. In addition to being used to assist in the creation of solid models, soluble support materials have also been used to create new production structures all on their own, via the application of sacrificial tooling.
What is it?
For those of you that may be unaware, sacrificial tooling is an application that consists of printing out a structure solely in a soluble material, which is then used to make composite structures. The process works by printing your structure, wrapping it in a type of resin or fiber, then washing away the original structure, leaving your hollow part intact. It is a crucial application for industries like high end automotive, for both the quality of the end part, and the ability to reach geometries not previously possible with more traditional methods.
FDM customers have been figuring out new ways of using soluble supports to create previously impossible structures to get the level of quality and functionality that is targeted when creating a sacrificial tool. Stratasys noticed this growing use of these support systems, and went so far as to create a brand new soluble model material ST-130, specifically designed for Sacrificial Tooling.
What is interesting about this material is that its creation was driven solely by the growing need presented by customers who were creative enough to use the older soluble support materials for sacrificial tooling. However, ST-130, being designed specifically for this application, boasts slightly better results:
ST-130, paired with its specialized T20B 3D printer tip, which has faster build times, and a new fill pattern designed for better fluid flow, is capable of withstanding common cure temperatures.
ST-130, available on the Fortus 450mc and 900mc, is the best combination of speed, dissolution time, and strength for sacrificial tooling.
However, that isn’t to say that great sacrificial tools cannot be created without ST-130, it’s just that you can get even higher quality sacrificial tools, with less work, using
this specialize soluble material. Soluble material technology is used in many different high performance industries, without the use of ST-130.
One company in particular that utilized this soluble material technology is Champion Motorsport, a high-end automotive manufacturer for high performance vehicles.
Using FDM for sacrificial tooling, Champion was able to create carbon fiber turbo inlet ducting with superior internal
and external dimensions at factory standards that were not previously possible with more traditional methods of molding in two halves.
By using this technology, they were able to maintain the high surface quality of their parts, that Champion Motorsports is known for, and increase part functionality without any excess work.
As their Lead Mechanical Engineer, Chris Lyew, said the technology “allowed me to design and make parts that I previously wouldn’t have considered because of the difficulty involved in creating them.”
To summarize, Champions Technical Director, Louis Milone, simply stated that “there’s really no downside to this technology for us.”