While the additive manufacturing (AM) industry itself is still establishing its own standards and research bodies as a whole, we are already seeing the formation of niche organizations within the sector. Among the first is the Photopolymer Additive Manufacturing Alliance (PAMA), which has just announced its official launch. Working with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as the RadTech trade group, PAMA is dedicated to advancing research and technology in the field of 3D printing.
The organization notes that photopolymer AM is already popular in a number of industries and has great potential for many more. Sectors currently highlighted include jewelry, dentistry, eyewear and sporting goods, while PAMA suggests that personalized medicine and space 3D printing could lead to future use of photopolymer processes. However, progress in the field is being held back by a combination of false marketing claims and the need for unified standards across the field.
“PAMA’s overarching goal is to better connect the industrial photopolymer supply chain to end-user experiences in 3D printing,” said David Walker, Chairman of PAMA’s Executive Advisory Board and Co-Founder of Azul 3D. “In a very diverse market, the language we use to describe our technology is important. Our industry’s terminology and protocols are not yet well aligned or agreed upon, making it nearly impossible for end consumers to make informed and accurate comparisons between existing technologies. This lack of transparency, coupled with an overabundance of inconsistent marketing claims, has led to significant barriers to the safe and reliable adoption of 3D printing within manufacturing ecosystems. Simply put, the lack of unified standards and practices is holding back additive manufacturing and Industry 4.0. »
PAMA has already established commitments from “critical institutions and end users” and is in the process of accepting new members. It will kick off operations with activities at RadTech 2022, May 9-12 in Orlando, Florida. These include a PAMA lunch at the event to discuss the structure and future activities of the group. Nearly 24 technical presentations will be given on photopolymer 3D printing, with topics ranging from material optimization, molecular design and “next level formulation” to a special insight into the PAMA market.
Stephanie Benight of Tactile Material Solutions will provide an exclusive update titled Touch Report Overview: Photopolymer Additive Manufacturing Market Trends and Companies to Watch. There will also be a short course on Additive Manufacturing of Photopolymers led by Walker and Dr. Jason P Killgore from NIST. PAMA will also be involved in a panel at the show entitled “Future of Additive Manufacturing Materials”. This will include Maximilian Zieringer, materials manager at Formlabs; Charlie Wood, Senior Director of Research and Development at Fast Radius; Vince Anewenter, Director – RPC Consortium Milwaukee School of Engineering; Eric Pallarés García, Co-founder and CTO, BCN3D Technologies. And a RadLaunch class of 2022 will be introduced that will include volumetric 3D printed dental aligners; Personalized 3D-printed boluses for radiotherapy of cancer patients; “endangered” advanced 4D materials; and high performance battery components.
“PAMA will help drive innovation in this critical manufacturing sector by supporting the development of standards and protocols and providing a forum where members can share research and best practices,” said Dianne Poster, research chemist and Senior Advisor to the National Institute of Standards. and technology (NIST).
As David Walker pointed out in an interview, photopolymers offer enormous manufacturing potential. Although often toxic and harmful to the environment, these photosensitive thermosets now achieve material properties comparable to those of thermoplastics in many cases. They represent the majority of hearing aids on the market and Carbon now sees them entering many other consumer products.
However, to achieve the safety and efficiency of plastics that we are accustomed to in our daily lives, photopolymers will surely need a concerted effort behind them. This is especially true if we want to see commercially viable bio-based photopolymers made possible. And because AM is only beginning to take off as a method of producing end-use parts, now is an opportunity to steer this segment in the right direction.
While we already have standards bodies, such as ASTM International, developing standards related to AM as a whole, this may be among the first material-specific focus within the industry. Rather than covering a form of light curing, such as SLA or DLP, it focuses on the resins themselves. This indicates that we have reached a point in the industry where niche groups dedicated to their own specialties are forming.
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