Opening up the Stratasys World of Additive Manufacturing Materials

Stratasys filament canisters can now be loaded with Validated and Open Materials. (Image courtesy Stratasys)
Stratasys Fortus 450mc FDM 3D printer, which now offers an OpenAM license option for editing more material build parameters – especially for third-party filaments. (Image courtesy Stratasys)

For years, people have said they really like Stratasys 3D printers for their quality, reliability and repeatability, but they’ve not been keen on the locked-down, proprietary materials. Canisters of filament come with gatekeeper e-proms, and you always had to buy them either from Stratasys or its resellers. That story has now changed: In November 2021, Stratasys expanded the landscape of material use with its announcement of the OpenAM License and the first of many third-party material options.

OpenAM is a software application, licensed based on an annual or perpetual per-printer basis, currently available for the Fortus 450mc FDM printer and the Origin One DLP printer. It allows users to modify existing material print-parameters and create all-new sets of custom parameters, to accelerate material research and application development.

Along with the OpenAM License, the first of dozens of new Fortus 450mc materials have been announced, some of which don’t even require that software: Stratasys materials are now categorized as either Preferred, Validated, or Open.

Canister for loading with filament: choices now include Stratasys Preferred, Stratasys Validated and Open materials. (Image courtesy Stratasys)

Three Categories of Stratasys Materials

Filaments in various colors, for 3D printing on Stratasys printers. (Image courtesy Stratasys)

PREFERRED Stratasys Materials: these are the traditional materials (filaments) that have years of use and testing behind them; they have been proven and optimized in Stratasys labs through thousands of print runs and multiple thousands of test parts. Their material properties are well understood, and test results and use cases are widely available.

VALIDATED Materials: this category is a new class of materials developed by material partners and/or by Stratasys and sold through the Stratasys reseller network. Their print parameters were developed jointly with Stratasys for Fortus 450mc printers through basic reliability testing, so they will run right away when loaded, just like any Stratasys Preferred filament. However, they have not been through the intensive, longer test-program of the Preferred Materials; depending on customer feedback, that might happen in the future, turning a Validated material into a Preferred one instead. NOTE: As long as you don’t need to experiment with build parameters, Validated materials do not require having an OpenAM License – this is huge!

Validated materials operate under a one-time, perpetual all-material Fortus 450mc license; the exception is that if you currently have a specific material license, say, just for ULTEMTM 9085 Black resin, and start printing ULTEMTM 9085 Red resin, you would not have to purchase the all-material license – new colors of existing materials fall under the existing licenses. Also, when running validated filaments, your Fortus 450MC machine falls under the standard service options, but the system must be fully hardened (except for the new colors of ULTEMTM resin filaments and PC-ABS filaments).

OPEN/EXPLORATORY Materials: for these materials, from any source, however they are produced (such as starting from a custom blend of pellet-stock and turned into filament, or based on a blend of resins), OpenAM-licensed users (with annual renewal) will be allowed to edit key tuning parameters. For the Fortus 450mc, these users will receive instructions and best practices’ information on tuning methods and will be able to purchase a Consumable Starter Kit comprising of empty Fortus 450mc filament canisters, empty spools, desiccant and e-prom chips. Any such material will be considered unvalidated, with no testing done by Stratasys. Systems that run open materials must use an OpenAM head and will have their hardware service contract options modified.

Overview of Stratasys VALIDATED Materials (no OpenAM license required, unless customizing)

VICTREX AM 200, a semi-crystalline PAEK filament, now available for printing on Stratasys Fortus 450 FDM printers. (Image courtesy Stratasys).

Filling a number of portfolio gaps in the performance of FDM materials, the following Validated filaments have been announced, with availability in Q4 2022 or Q1 2023.

Several existing Stratasys materials are now available as Validated versions in additional colors:

  • ULTEMtm 9085 Resin – now adding Red, Dream Gray, White, Jana White, Gunship Gray and Aircraft Gray to the existing Preferred Tan and Black
  • Polycarbonate (PC) – adding Red and Black to the Preferred White
  • PC-ABS – adding Red to the Preferred Black and White

Overview of Stratasys Origin EXPLORATORY Materials (OpenAM License required)

Arkema CAST011 resin for DLP printers, now available for printing on the Stratasys Origin One printer. (Image courtesy Arkema).

Extruded materials are not the only 3D printing category seeing expanded activity. As of November 2022, one year into the OpenAM License program, Stratasys now supports the following DLP resins on Origin One Programmable Photopolymer (P3) printers with an OpenAM license:

These resins come with developer-suggested parameter styles but have not been tested by Stratasys on the Origin One P3 printer. For further information, contact the manufacturer directly.

Overview of OpenAM Material License and Software Tool

OpenAM license customers may use any third-party materials, their own or those developed elsewhere, acknowledging that these materials have not been tested or validated by Stratasys. Use of such materials may affect the printer’s warranty, so check on that with your reseller.

There are also several hardware aspects to the OpenAM license for Fortus 450mc users: once the license is purchased (on a per-printer basis), the selected Fortus 450mc system must be upgraded to hardened mode if not done already, and all abrasive Open materials must be printed using the recently announced CARBIDE OpenAM printhead. The Standard OpenAM printhead is optional for non-abrasive Preferred, Validated or Open materials. Both new heads accept existing Fortus 450mc tips.

Users access a separate OpenAM application software package; this upgrades Insight, GrabCAD Print and the machine. Unlocked parameters include:

  • Oven temperature
  • Extruder temperature
  • Extrusion rate
  • Maximum velocity
  • Corner velocity
  • Flow factor
  • Stringing control
  • Purge time
  • Support angle
  • Extruder fan duty-cycle

Stratasys will supply a detailed OpenAM User Guide that helps users navigate the software and tune values for each of these parameters. It also offers a general workflow to working with new materials, including what build-sheet to use, considerations for various geometries, and advice such as the fact that amorphous or semi-crystalline plastics work much better than fully crystalized materials, especially for large parts. This guidance will support choices that are most likely to offer success in printing.

Any new set of parameters will be evaluated through a cloud-based Upgrade Server, essentially to verify that the combination of settings will not break the printer. OpenAM is then used to upgrade Insight, GrabCAD Print, and the machine with the new upgrade file. A new CMB (combined machine binary) file is then sent to the printer.

The generic, write-once e-prom chip will come with default starting parameters and min/max ranges based on the general material profile of the following families (with more to come):

– ABS
– ASA
– PC
– PEI-HT (high temp)
– PEI
– PA12
– PA12CF
– PEKK

One interesting note for OpenAM license-holders is that they can also adjust print parameters for their Stratasys Preferred and Validated materials: the editing function extends beyond working just with Open materials. However, there are no plans at the moment to allow changing parameters for third-party support materials, so standard Stratasys support materials must be used with all Open model materials.

Stratasys suggests that users initially tweak the build settings for a relatively simple material, such as an ABS-based material. By working through the effects of varying one parameter at a time and evaluating the response compared to parts built with the default settings, users will gain valuable experience toward changing the parameters on a Validated or Open material.

For more information, see the Stratasys Open Materials Ecosystem and reach out to PADT.

PADT Inc. is a globally recognized provider of Numerical Simulation, Product Development and 3D Printing/3D Scanning products and services. For more information on GOM 3D scanners and Stratasys and EOS printers and materials, contact us at info@padtinc.com.

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