Blue laser sintering material for 3D printing from igus ensures food safety

The iglidur i6 laser sintering material, which is food-safe according to FDA and EU 10/2011 regulations, is now available in blue, ensuring the required optical detectability in applications in the food and beverage industry (Image: igus)

igus has launched a new laser sintering material for 3D printers: the powdered iglidur i6-BLUE is easy to detect thanks to its blue colouring, and also complies with FDA and EU 10/2011 regulations. The new material thus increases the safety of machines and systems in the food and beverage industry. iglidur i6-BLUE is comparable to the iglidur i6 in terms of strength and sliding properties, and is suitable for printing worm gears, toothed gears and snap-on connections in 3D.

Fast production, low costs and high design flexibility: manufacturers of machines and systems for the food and beverage industry have used 3D printers as an alternative to conventional technologies, such as turning and milling. Design engineers prefer blue printing material as it is easy to see and therefore increases food safety. If a 3D-printed component breaks, blue fragments in the product are easy to see and can be quickly identified with detectors.

However, for the selective laser sintering manufacturing process, there are still very few blue printing materials on the market that are both robust and food-compliant.

“To meet the high demand, we have now developed iglidur i6-BLUE, a blue-coloured printing powder that is compatible with all common laser sintering printers,” said Tom Krause, head of the igus additive manufacturing business unit. “The blue high-performance plastic is easy to detect and is also food-compliant. Unlike conventionally manufactured laser-sintered components, iglidur i6-BLUE complies with the hygiene guidelines of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EU 10/2011 regulations.”

Another feature of the component is that it is completely blue, and does not merely have coloured surfaces. This ensures that all possible fragments are blue and therefore easy to detect.

At least nine times as abrasion-resistant as PA12

With its material composition, the iglidur i6-BLUE is also tough and abrasion-resistant with strong sliding properties, making it suitable for printing worm gears and toothed gears in 3D that are intended for machines in the food and beverage industry. The material is resistant to temperatures between -40°C and +80°C.

“Tests in our in-house laboratory have also shown that 3D-printed gears made of iglidur i6-BLUE have a much longer service life than milled wheels made of polyoxymethylene (POM), and are at least nine times as abrasion-resistant as PA12 (SLS),” said Krause. Due to the high elongation at break, the laser sintering printing material is also suitable for the additive manufacturing of snap-on connections. In addition, iglidur i6-BLUE increases the hygiene of machines for the food and beverage industry. Microscopic solid lubricants are integrated into the laser sintering material and released automatically during movement, allowing low-friction dry operation. This eliminates the need for lubricants, which attract dust and dirt and can become a contamination risk.

Available with the 3D printing service in just five days

Machine manufacturers who do not have their own 3D printer can use the igus 3D printing service with no minimum order quantity. All they have to do is submit a 3D model of their component. The laser sintering printer then produces it in layers from the new iglidur i6-BLUE printing material; this works faster than classic manufacturing technologies, such as turning or milling.

“For special components, prototypes and series of up to 10,000 pieces, we can reduce delivery time from several weeks to five days,” said Krause. “More and more customers are grateful to accept this deal in the face of faltering supply chains worldwide.”