UL publishes independent study on 3D printed polymer properties

Global safety certification company, UL, has published an independent study on the effects of 3D printing on polymer properties. The results of the study have been used to develop a framework to qualify materials for safety-critical industrial components. The Illinois-based company hopes the framework will aid individuals and companies across the AM supply chain in mitigating the risks associated with 3D printing previously uncertified materials.

Blue Card certification

UL’s independent study explored the flammability, ignition, and electrical properties of polymer parts fabricated using 3D printing. These 3D printed parts were compared to identical parts manufactured using traditional injection molding. The UL researchers saw significant variations in safety and performance across their comparisons and concluded that performance ratings used with conventional manufacturing techniques cannot be applied when the same part made from the same material is 3D printed.

The UL team then took to developing a certification program for 3D printable polymers, the Blue Card. The data necessary for a manufacturer to ensure the integrity and efficacy of a 3D printable material is presented on the material’s Blue Card. A Blue Card is automatically issued when a 3D printable material is qualified by UL, receiving a UL Recognized Component Mark.

How to read a Blue Card. Image via UL.
How to read a Blue Card. Image via UL.

The Product iQ database

A list of AM materials certified by UL can be found in UL’s publicly available database, Product iQ. Manufacturers are able to search through the database at any time to find certified 3D printable materials suitable for their respective applications. By using a trusted third-party tested and qualified material, end-use component manufacturers save on time and costs when certifying their end-use products and systems. Furthermore, as Blue Cards are specific to a 3D printer, machine manufacturers have the option to certify a material for explicit use on their own systems.

UL’s white paper,Certifying plastics for additive manufacturing’, provides an overview of the research findings. The finer details of the independent study can be found in UL’s research paper, ‘Influence of 3D Printing on Safety-Critical Polymer Performance Properties’.

Material certification is crucial if a given material is to be used for safety-critical industrial applications, making the process a focus for many organizations involved in the AM supply chain globally. One such organization is certification company Element, who recently upgraded its laboratory in Huntington Beach, California with a dedicated characterization facility specifically for AM powders. Elsewhere, TÜV SÜD, a leading technical service corporation, has developed a new certification program for metal AM powder manufacturers to prove the quality of their processes. The program was successfully tested and validated with a pilot audit of Rosswag Engineering, a metal processing company based in Germany.

Metal alloy powder. Image via PyroGenesis.
Metal alloy powder. Image via PyroGenesis.

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows UL’s Blue Card certification. Image via UL.

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