While 3D printing technology has been responsible for many advances and inventions over the years, it’s not foolproof – some methods don’t produce items with the best material properties, and others result in surfaces that are rough and unclean. The Vienna University of Technology, better known as TU Wien, is responsible for many innovations in 3D printing materials. The university also generated a spin-off company, the startup Cubicure, which developed a new 3D printing technique called hot lithography.
TU Wien has spent years developing 3D printing processes, along with material mixtures that are well-suited for a wide variety of applications. Cubicure is a direct result of this research.
Dr. Robert Gmeiner, CEO of Cubicure, said, “3D printing already plays a key role in the production of prototypes or utility models. But even for all industrial products that are produced in small quantities or have to be tailored to the individual needs of the individual customer – such as components in the medical sector – the high-quality 3D printing offers great opportunities.”
The patented hot lithography process works with the startup’s novel, optimized resins, which combine high surface quality and precision with excellent material properties to solve the issues that can plague other methods.
For industrial applications, it’s important to have materials with excellent thermo-mechanical properties, like ABS, along with geometrical properties such as low surface roughness that you might see in injection molded parts.
SLA processes that use light to cure liquid resin are good for 3D printing parts with high surface quality, but the traditional materials for this, such as photopolymers, are brittle and have a low heat distortion temperature.
As Professor Jürgen Stampfl from the Institute of Materials Science and Materials Technology explains, “However, these stereolithography processes often have the problem that the materials traditionally used for them are quite brittle, have rather poor impact resistance and do not hold their shape well at high temperatures.”