TARRAGONA, Spain, June 1, 2020 – ELIX Polymers, a leading ABS producer, is collaborating in the fight against COVID-19 with a large group of companies within ClusterMAV, the Advanced Materials Cluster of Catalonia, Spain. These companies are working as partners in collaboration with the National Federation of Innovative Business Groups and Clusters (FENAEIC), which focuses on promoting collaboration between federations, clusters, and their partners within the European Cluster Collaboration Platform.
ELIX Polymers is donating a medical-grade material, ELIX ABS 3D-FC, in response to the high demand from hospitals for medical masks, valves for ventilators, and other medical devices. This product, developed for transformation into filaments for FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) 3D printing, is now being used by Ford Motor Company (which has switched over some of its automotive production to producing medical equipment), by the research organization AIMPLAS, and by two Spanish plastics processors, PESL and SIIM.
The materials developed by ELIX Polymers for the healthcare sector are compliant with the ISO 10993 and USP class VI biocompatibility standards. They have been included in Drug Master Files (DMFs) for use in medical and food contact applications in both Europe and the US.
“Many companies with 3D printing capability are putting their equipment at the disposal of the community to produce medical parts,” says Luca Chiochia, business development manager at ELIX Polymers. “The demand for 3D printing filaments in Spain is being channeled through the 3Dcovid19.tech digital platform, an initiative that links hospitals’ needs and 3D printing production resources, as well as through ClusterMAV, and FENAEIC. Ford and AIMPLAS are both producing filaments using ELIX ABS 3D-FC and are also making masks and face protection components in their own AM departments.”
Ford is using fifteen 3D printers at its facility in Valencia to produce protective face shields at a rate of 300 units a day. Filaments, produced in extruders operated by volunteer employees, are used to print the head supports for protective face shields. Assembled shields are shipped to an ozone disinfection center coordinated by the Ministry of Health in Valencia and are then distributed to hospitals and care homes.
Logistics support for the 3Dcovid19.tech initiative, in coordination with the leading plastics distributor Nexeo Plastics, in Barcelona, is making it possible to distribute the ELIX ABS 3D-FC filaments to several 3D printing companies in the network. These companies are producing various parts that are in high demand, including ventilator adaptors and manifolds. One such company is Noumena, a tech company that specializes in the manufacture of additives and uses ELIX ABS 3D-FC in its WASP 3D printing machines to produce different types of protective masks with interchangeable filters for the subsequent supply thereof to hospitals. In some cases, injection molding is also being used, for which ELIX Polymers is providing another medical grade, ELIX ABS M203-FC.
Fabian Herter, marketing manager at ELIX Polymers, states that: “the availability of specific molds for use in such medical applications has been the key factor, together with the availability of material, to make production by injection molding feasible so that production volumes can be easily ramped up. And 3D printing has been key in making it possible to quickly deliver a solution: 3D printing is extremely versatile and can therefore produce highly diverse components for medical devices without the need for specific tooling. Plus, production can take place very close to hospitals.”
ELIX ABS 3D-FC is being used on several brands of 3D printers, including not only open-chamber types such as Prusa and Ultimaker but also closed-chamber printers such as WASP. Temperature fluctuation is reduced in a closed chamber, but open-chamber 3D printers have also shown excellent results.
The downloadable printing profile for ELIX ABS 3D-FC, which is compatible with Cura software widely used in FFF 3D printing, has helped to identify the most suitable settings for the material. Standard Prusa settings for ABS have also been useful.
With a reduced layer height (0.15 mm), very good part resolution can be achieved using ELIX ABS 3D-FC. With an Ultimaker 3 printer, for example, the material can be printed at the recommended ABS processing temperature. Good adhesion between the first layers of material and the build plate is achieved with a spray adhesive.
The performance characteristics of ABS, together with the fact that it can be adapted and customized to meet each specific need for its final use, as well as the safety and reliability of the different types of ABS manufactured by ELIX, have made it an essential material for many medical equipment manufacturers.
For more information, visit ELIX website.