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Even though we in the 3D printing industry often tout our technology’s environmental benefits, we do produce waste. In the case of powder bed fusion (PBF), we produce a lot of it. In PBF, a laser sinters a powder, turning it into a part. Unsintered powder remains behind and supports the part and design features such as overhangs. When a block of powder is taken out parts, are exhumed and cleaned, the remaining powder is then sieved and recycled.
This can not be done infinitely, however, because as the powder is reused, it degrades and part properties suffer. Utilization and recycling rates vary depending on parts, material, and additives, but generally, we are estimated to throw away half of all sintering powder. Mostly PA 12. This engineering plastic is a high-cost material when used for laser sintering (PBF) costing anywhere from $30 to $95 a kilo. This means that, globally, hundreds of millions of dollars of powder are thrown away annually.
Belgian software to services company Materialise has announced a solution: Bluesint. With the Bluesint process, the company has cleverly tweaked a dual laser powder bed fusion system to heat recycled powder before building it into new parts. The company claims that, …
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