This study aims to demonstrate for the first time that the cheap, commodity polymer, poly(propylene), can be successfully processed using high speed sintering, and that it can be recycled several times through the process, with little to no detriment to either the polymer itself or the parts obtained. This is significant as a step towards the realisation of high speed sintering as a technology for high-volume manufacturing.
A poly(propylene) powder designed for laser sintering was used to build parts on a high speed sintering machine. The unsintered powder was then collected and reused. Repeating this process allowed creation of seven generations of aged powder. A variety of characterisation techniques were then used to measure polymer, powder and part properties for each generation to discern any effects arising from ageing in the machine.
It was found that poly(propylene) could be used successfully in high speed sintering, albeit with a low build success rate. Increased powder age was found to correlate to an increase in the build success rate, changes in microscopic and bulk powder properties and improvement to the dimensional accuracy of the parts obtained. By contrast, no discernible correlations were seen between powder age and polymer molecular weight, or between powder age and the tensile properties of parts.
This is the first report of the use of poly(propylene) in high speed sintering. It is also first study regarding powder recyclability in high speed sintering, both in general and using poly(propylene) specifically.
The authors would like to acknowledge the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Polymers, Soft Matter and Colloids and PA Consulting, who provided the funding for this work.
Williams, R.J., Fox, L. and Majewski, C. (2021), "The effect of powder age in high speed sintering of poly(propylene)", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 707-719. https://doi.org/10.1108/RPJ-05-2020-0090
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