BASF, Ludwigshafen, Germany, has developed its Ultrafuse 316LX for use in fused filament fabrication (FFF) systems for the production of metal parts. Ultrafuse 316LX is metal-polymer composite filament with a non-slip surface allowing its application in any bowden or direct drive extruder.
Its high flexibility allows it to be funnelled through complex idler pulleys as well as guide roller filament transportation systems. Once formed, the parts undergo a standard debinding and sintering process introduced to the Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) market by BASF in the 1980s. Catalytic debinding removes the polymer from the part and sintering in pure hydrogen or a vacuum results in the finished metal part.
The whole process is said to be faster and less expensive than offered by existing SLM systems. Ultrafuse 316LX is available in 1.75 and 2.85 mm diameter filament. According to BASF, no changes to the FFF hardware are required to process the material. Currently only a 316L stainless steel option exists, but BASF states that other metal options will be developed.
The filament is said to be suited to a broad range of applications for functional prototyping and small series production. BASF lists various applications including watches, decorative parts, medical equipment and parts for the food and chemical industry.