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  • Feature Story

UL Hosts AM Plastics Workshop Focused on Material & Part Acceptance

October 18, 2017

UL brought together AM material suppliers, end-product manufacturers, service bureaus, software providers, and equipment manufacturers on Tuesday, October 3, to discuss how to accelerate the adoption of AM by enabling a path to acceptance of 3D printed plastic materials and production parts.

The unique forum, hosted by UL at mHUB Chicago, engaged participants in discussing the following industry topics:

  • Testing challenges and technology limitations of AM materials in practice
  • Critical material and printing process properties
  • Industry applications and end product requirements
  • Use of 3D printed prototypes for production part acceptance
  • Disrupting the supply chain and enabling a path to mass production

In an in-depth discussion focusing on approaches to drive industry growth, participants debated the merits of increasing open source options (materials and machines), knowledge and data sharing within the industry, and changes within the design and development process. The discussion highlighted the differing points of view among the various industry stakeholders. In particular, the “opening up” of machine parameters and the materials market increases the complexity and variables within the manufacturing and material recognition processes.

Melissa Albrecht, UL AM Global Program Manager, is already looking forward to continuing the conversation. “Discussing the number of available plastics in the market compared to those available strictly for 3D printing - which is over 30 years old - is eye opening,” said Albrecht. “There is so much potential. It comes down to finding the right products which best leverage the benefits of this technology and working with the stakeholders who are pushing the envelope to transform manufacturing.” UL is doing its part by involving more diverse application teams and evolving its testing and certification programs to best meet the needs of the industry.

UL Research Manager, Tom Fabian, added to the thought. “It’s also about accelerating acceptance of the technology. Consider how young 3D printing is relative to the adoption of injection molding for mass production. We’re talking 30 years as opposed to 70 years. We should be asking what can we do collectively to ensure it doesn’t take another 40 years before it’s broadly embraced. That’s where we need to focus.”