In all processes of industrial manufacturing, efficiency is key, and speed is paramount. Industrial 3D printing helps companies to improve and speed up their manufacturing processes by rapid prototyping, unlocking fast customization and by enabling multiple products to be manufactured in one production run.

However, industrial 3D printing machines differ greatly from traditional desktop printers. Besides the format of the machines and the prints, one major difference can be found in the material that is used to print.

While most desktop printers use filament to print, most industrial 3D printers use plastic pellets to feed their print heads. In this article Maarten Logtenberg, CEAD’s CTO and co-founder, sheds light on the advantages of using pellets in industrial 3D printing.

Pellets for industrial 3D printing explained

Let’s dive into the mechanics of pellet printing first: Pellets embark on a journey from the dryer to the robot extruder, where they are carefully melted. Equipped with multiple precision-controlled heat zones, the extruder melts the pellet material into a liquid substance.

Controlling the temperature to the specific material allows us to achieve an optimal flow rate, ensuring the best possible layer adhesion as well as improved mechanical properties.”

The differences between 3D printing with pellets and filament

At CEAD we are pellet-printing-enthusiasts. The following differences between pellets and filament for industrial 3D printing highlight why we are big fans of this extrusion method.

1. Increasing industrial 3D printing speed

High output processes are crucial in the industrial adoption of 3D printing. The use of a pellet extruder increases the maximum output per hour, compared to filament based 3D printers. This innovation proves to be a game-changer, making 3D printing not only feasible but highly efficient for large-scale industrial applications.

2. Cost efficiency by a shorter material production process

The pellet extruder not only accelerates the speed of the printing process but also brings substantial cost savings. One fundamental difference between filament and pellet material can be found in the creation of filament, which use pellets as a base material.

Since pellets are melted into filament, the production of filament thus requires one more step. This additional step means that the production of filament is more expensive as opposed to pellet material, making pellet extruders a more economically viable choice.

3. Wide range of thermoplastic materials

CEAD’s robot extruders are designed to handle almost any thermoplastic material. From Polypropylene to high-end options like PEEK, the pellet extruder adapts to the specific needs of your industrial projects. This versatility ensures that CEAD can cater to diverse applications, offering flexibility and customization in material choices.

4. The reinforcement of fibers

An additional characteristic of pellet based 3D printing is the possibility to introduce fibers into the pellets. These fibers play a dual role. First, they minimize warping during the printing process, ensuring the structural integrity of the final product.

Additionally, and perhaps more significantly, they enhance the strength of the printed part. This capability opens doors to utilizing thermoplastic materials in high-end applications, such as autoclave tooling.

CEAD’s robot extruders are equipped with a nitrated barrel, which offers resistance against abrasive materials. This allows processing of virtually all short-fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites. Processing of commodity materials, biobased and high-end materials filles with wood-, glass and carbon fibers, make the extruders widely applicable to several industries.

Meet our family of pellet extruders

The different models of our family of pellet extruders can be mounted on robotic arms or gantry-systems. They were originally developed for our robot-based system called the Flexbot, which was officially launched in 2019. However, CEAD extruders can be easily integrated onto existing robot or gantry systems too.

On this page you can find more information on the different models from the pellet extruder series. For more information download the pellet extruder brochure, download a 3D file of the extruders or schedule a call with our specialists.

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