The process for producing the PA11 powder begins simply with castor beans. This resource is an excellent candidate for producing polymer because it grows easily in India in marginal soil, is highly drought-resistant, and offers good profits for the farmers who grow it. Where other edible oils would not flourish in these same conditions, farmers are able to expand crops to supply the increased demand for castor beans brought about by the development of PA 11 powders. This has seen castor bean farming profiting more than half a million families in the areas it’s grown.
The castor beans are crushed to produce an oil, which resembles many standard vegetable oils. The oil is processed by Arkema to produce a monomer powder, which can then be further developed to create a polymer powder for injection molding and 3D printing.
To make the powder suitable for laser bed fusion printing required the expertise of ALM to formulate adjustments to the powder so that it will function properly in an AM system. ALM produces this powder under the name PA 820-MF CN. The material is available to purchase directly from EOS, it is suitable for use with the EOS P 396 and EOS P 770.
Together with our partners, we strongly focus on establishing responsible manufacturing as the new normal. This material combines a sustainable feedstock from castor beans, with advanced performance characteristics and a carbon-neutral climate change profile.
The innovative polyamide 11 is the first carbon neutral, 100% bio-based powder we provide. We are continuing to do research on powders based on other natural oils and their potential for a wider range of materials in the future. But, as made evident from the process of creating polyamide 11, to fully achieve the most responsible methods of manufacturing possible requires a combination of changes across multiple areas in the field. That’s why, we are also optimizing the hardware of our 3D printing systems and working on process parameters to improve the refresh rate of the material used.
A better refresh rate will mean that less of the “non-fused powder” (the powder in the printer that doesn’t become part of the final product) can be reused for subsequent prints. This will further reduce waste and ensure an improved ratio of final production to powder, reflecting the EOS philosophy of continuing to drive toward more responsible manufacturing through advancements in 3D printing.