France is using pellet 3D printing to fulfill its potential, as seen in our on-site coverage with Pollen AM.

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The 3D printing industry is the epitome of diversity. Gone are the days when only a few major companies in select parts of the world dominated the market. Now, there are thousands of firms all over the globe, each with their own unique approach to additive manufacturing (AM). And within this vast and varied landscape, there is a lesser-known player that deserves some recognition: Pollen Additive Manufacturing (Pollen AM). This French company has been quietly making waves in a niche corner of the market known as pellet additive manufacturing (PAM).

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Pollen AM headquarters in Paris, France to learn more about the company and its PAM technology. What struck me immediately upon meeting with the team was the company’s age. Pollen began as an idea back in 2011, when 3D printing was still an enigmatic technology with only a handful of major players. To put this into perspective, even well-established companies like Raise3D didn’t come into existence until 2015. So, to say that Pollen is a veteran in the industry is an understatement.

What sets Pollen apart from other companies is the fact that they have been exclusively focused on PAM since day one. Even in today’s more mature market, pellet printing is still considered a niche technology. So, for Pollen to have pursued this field in 2011 was a bold move, to say the least.

But the real question is, what makes Pollen so successful? And what exactly is a pellet printer? Well, at its core, PAM works in a similar way to the more common fused deposition modeling (FDM) process. The material is melted down, extruded, and cooled through a toolhead in a layer-by-layer fashion. However, the key difference lies in the form of the material feed. While FDM printers use filament spools, PAM printers are fed material pellets.

The pellet printing system consists of a material cartridge that holds the pellets, an auger screw that guides the material through the extruder, and a thermally controlled extruder that melts and cools the material as it passes through the toolhead. After the extrusion process, PAM is essentially equivalent to FDM printing.

According to Didier Fonta, Pollen’s General Manager, the significant advantage of pellet printing lies in the material selection. In traditional manufacturing methods like injection molding, the process starts with pelletized materials that are melted, injected, and cooled. In FDM, however, the pelletized materials are formed into filament spools, which adds an extra step and drives up the cost of materials.

Pellet printing eliminates this extra step and allows for the use of the exact same materials used in injection molding. This means that PAM can tap into the extensive research and development, as well as the economies of scale, that exist in the world of injection molding. The result is significantly more affordable and diverse materials for 3D printing.

In fact, Fonta notes that 10 years ago, industrial-level filaments could cost up to 300 Euros/kg, whereas with pellets, the same material could be obtained for between 1 and 5 Euros/kg. This cost reduction opens up a world of possibilities for 3D printing, making it more accessible to a wider range of industries and applications.

So, while Pollen AM may not be a household name in the world of 3D printing, they are certainly a company to watch. Their dedication to pellet additive manufacturing and their ability to leverage the benefits of injection molding materials have positioned them as a true innovator in the industry. As the market continues to evolve and diversify, Pollen AM is sure to play an important role in shaping the future of additive manufacturing.

Pollen AM, a leading provider of pellet additive manufacturing (PAM) solutions, is revolutionizing the 3D printing industry with its advanced technology and commitment to high-quality materials.

In industries like aerospace, where certified engineering-grade materials are a necessity, finding suitable options for 3D printing can be challenging. While conventional manufacturing methods such as injection molding offer a wide range of high-quality materials, the same cannot be said for filament spools used in 3D printers. This limitation has restricted the types of end-use parts that can be created through 3D printing.

However, Pollen AM has overcome this obstacle by directly using pellets, enabling the use of top-grade materials without any extra steps or compromises. This breakthrough opens up new possibilities for the types of parts that can be produced through 3D printing, making it a game-changer in the industry.

The name “Pollen” itself is inspired by the advantages of this technology. Just as the smallest constituent of nature, pollen, can grow into a majestic tree, Pollen AM’s PAM machines can transform high-quality materials into intricate and functional parts.

Pollen AM offers a range of printer options, each customizable to meet the unique needs of its customers. These printers share common features, including a heated chamber that can reach a maximum temperature of 80°C. Additionally, they are equipped with a heated disc positioned near the extruder nozzles, ensuring uniform heating of the top layer up to a temperature of 350°C.

With maximum print volumes of Ø 300 x H 300 mm and nozzle sizes ranging from 0.25 mm to 1.20 mm, Pollen’s printers can handle a wide variety of materials, from standard thermoplastics to metals and ceramics. The company actively validates and adds new materials to its “approved” list, showcasing its commitment to flexibility and innovation.

What sets Pollen AM apart from its competitors is its exceptional resolution capabilities. The printers can achieve resolutions of 40µm in the Z axis, 5µm in the X and Y axes, and dimensional accuracies of ± 0.2 mm. This level of precision surpasses many other 3D printing solutions currently available on the market.

As a testament to its success, Pollen AM has witnessed the emergence of other PAM players in the market. This indicates the growing recognition of the advantages offered by this technology. In the near future, Pollen AM plans to focus on material development, including the establishment of a subsidiary in Belgium dedicated to ceramics research.

With over a decade of experience in the industry, Pollen AM has proven that its technology works effectively and consistently. The company aims to increase awareness of its groundbreaking solutions and continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in 3D printing.

To stay informed about the latest news and developments in the 3D printing industry, as well as receive information and offers from third-party vendors, be sure to stay up-to-date with Pollen AM.

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