Printing | 25 10 2016

​Material Jetting 3D Printing Technology

The printing of objects have been explored thoroughly for a very long time now especially the 2D printing. Documents, research papers, the notes of a friend and many more. However, apart from the printing we are used to in our daily life, there is another type of printing that is gaining speed in recent years. The 3D printing rapidly makes progress in the world around us with new techniques appearing and other older ones evolving. One technique that I want to tell you about is the Material Jetting. MJ is mostly used for industrial 3D printing. The Material Jetting 3D printing technology is a process in which the 3D object is being created by using droplets of a build material that are selectively spread over the build bed. Droplets are formed and positioned into the build surface, in order to build the object being printed, with further droplets added in new layers until the entire object has been made. The best use of this technology is for creating realistic prototypes with fine details and perfectly smoothed surfaces. In a way this technology is similar to inject printing where the 3D object is created by jetting ink over paper, but in the material jetting technique, instead of ink, the materials used are photopolymers which are jetted on the platform where they are being cured instantly by UV light. Just like with other 3D printing technologies, here the object is being build from the bottom up. Unlike the SLS and like the rest of the 3D printing technologies, a supporting material is needed for the MJ (Material Jetting) technology. What is used is a gel-like support material that can be used temporarily and once to object is complete it can be removed and is especially needed for overhangs or more complex geometries. It can be removed using using a sodium hydroxide solution or water jet.

 The photopolymers that are available provide the 3D printed objects with different properties such as transparency, flexibility or toughness. This makes the combination of different material properties and colors possible. Some of the newer version of those 3D printing machines allow the use of multiple jets. Several years back these printers could deliver combinations of up to 20 properties while today the number of combinations is around 100. The ability to use multiple materials simultaneously deems needless to separate different layers of materials and then assembling them together later. In order to deliver fine details however some of the layers may become thinner. Some of the materials do not handle this well due to the high temperature. The Material Jetting is the most precise 3D printing technology out there. In order to achieve stunning details the layer can be made only 15-16-micron thin. 

The MJ is progressing with a very fast pace. Today it is capable of delivering about 100 combinations. And what about in 5 or 10 years time?