Formlabs Takes a Step in Making Tough, Durable 3D-Printed Pieces

Can 3D-printed parts be tough enough for load-bearing, hands-on stress? The folks from Formlabs say they are moving, just a bit, in that direction with new material for their desktop printers.

The Somerville, MA-based company is visiting New York now for CE Week, an annual conference for consumer electronics. On Tuesday, Formlabs announced the debut of Tough Resin, a material that can be used with its Form 1 and Form 1+ printers.

While the Tough Resin is billed as stronger than many other materials used in 3D printing, let’s not even pretend this is a replacement for rolled steel. In fact, Formlabs is not making such a claim (despite the 3D-printed chain in the photo below). The company is, however, pitching Tough Resin as a more impact-resistant, less brittle material to create prototypes and some engineering pieces that can be functional under stress.

Formlabs claims Tough Resin has a yield strength—the point of stress when something starts to deform—of 7,570 pounds per square inch (psi). That compares with various types of ABS filament, a material commonly used in desktop 3D printing, which may have yield strengths of just over 3,000 to more than 7,400 psi.

3D printed chain made with Tough Resin.

3D printed chain made with Tough Resin (Formlabs).

Rival desktop 3D printer makers have not yet reacted to these claims, so I am not going to pit Tough Resin against any one company’s filament material. This does show more of the evolution taking place in 3D printing.

In the earliest days of this industry, the options were limited to monochromatic, plastic-looking creations that were not very detailed. Now multicolor creations, metallic, and composites that resemble wood can be produced by 3D printers from various companies such as Mcor Technologies, Shapeways, and MakerBot Industries. We are also seeing 3D-printed footwear from SOLS and 3D printing in car manufacturing from Local Motors.

After CE Week formally opens in the next day, I intend to get a closer look at the Tough Resin from Formlabs.

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