Additive manufacturing processes are gaining ever more importance in industrial application. The range of available systems is constantly growing and covers a large number of different process variants. However, one aspect that has until now been largely ignored is the question of the technical properties of the parts produced by 3D printing, which naturally depend essentially on the processing quality. According to the present state of knowledge, there is not yet sufficient empirical data available to compare the properties of injection-moulded parts with those of additively manufactured parts.
Microscopic preparation and analysis procedures were therefore deployed to obtain an initial morphological inventory of test components produced by various systems currently on the market that use the process of Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). A number of process-related weak points were identified. For example, some of the parts produced by FDM showed, on examination under the laser microscope, an enlargement of the part surface of up to 300 percent compared with a comparable injection-moulded product. Because of the larger interaction surface, this will affect the media resistance of the components. Other significant characteristics are the many flow lines and voids, which will have a direct effect on the load resistance of the parts.
Based on these investigations, it is possible to initiate specific process and material developments aimed at improving the properties of the part. This, in turn, can have a favourable effect on production times.