In powdered and beam-based additive manufacturing processes, like the selective laser melting of plastics, a powdery raw material is selectively melted by a laser beam. One demand for processing materials via selective beam-melting is that the raw material is provided as a fine powder with defined bulk properties (e.g. particle size, shape and bulk density). These special raw materials are mostly sold exclusively by the machine manufacturer. So far, the range of commercially available materials is limited to a few semi-crystalline thermoplastics such as polyamide 12 (PA 12) and polyetheretherketone (PEEK). Other thermoplastic materials such as polystyrene (PS) and polycarbonate (PC), although commercially available in powder form, result in parts with large porosities and poor mechanical properties, and are used as casting cores.
Research at the Institute of Polymer Technology is dedicated to overcoming these material-related restrictions, with the aim to develop new applications for additive-manufactured parts. In the field of selective beam melting investigations are focused on the analysis as well as the processing of new polymer powders with greater technical relevance, such as polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polyoxymethylene (POM), and polypropylene (PP).