ASU Professor Studied Printing Supports with ULTEM 9085

ULTEM 9085 by SABIC is a versatile, high-performance polymer that balances material strength with lightweight and chemically-resistant material properties. It’s a mainstream 3D printing filament for many engineering companies, so scientists and 3D printer technicians are examining: Why is 9085 easier to print?

Vision Miner promotes the rule-of-thumb: “Print as little support structure as possible!” Printing with high-performance polymers is expensive, so less support material means less time and less expense wasted. It’s interesting that ASU Engineering Professor Dr. Bhate’s 2016 Ultem 9085 Case Study aligns with our rule of thumb!

Printing a part like an intake manifold with ULTEM 9085 is an engineering challenge, since it is “a demanding material to print, in ways that ABS, Polycarbonate, and even Nylon are not,” Dr. Bhate said. Dr. Bhate learned four essential guidelines for printing Ultem that Vision Miner highlights here.

TIP #1: Simplify support removal; orient a part well. Avoid placing supports where you can’t easily reach them. In his case, the intake manifold’s internal hole features could not have support material on the inside, where few tools can remove excess tough Ultem in tight angles, as in this reference photo.

As you can see, proper orientation of this part is essential. It could be the difference between supports filling the channels, or supports only placed on the exterior. The key that Dr. Bhate followed was to make sure internal features aligned as closely to the vertical axis as possible.

TIP #2: Adjust parameters, like support angle, contour width, and layer thickness. While FDM machines can’t literally print in “open air”, high-performance materials like 9085 are strong enough to handle layers that do increase in area along the vertical axis. 

When he printed this SAE intake manifold, Dr. Bhate found: “To reduce support requirements, you want [the minimum support angle] as low as possible, so a greater volume of the part is self-supported.” Dr. Bhate noticed specifically, that when he designed a higher layer thickness (increasing 0.01” to 0.013”), he could also increase contour width and decrease minimum support angles.

Any company using Ultem 9085 in projects should take time to perform test prints, at different parameters. Check how low you can get a minimum support angle. Then, you find exactly how much unnecessary support material you can shave off!

Dr. Bhate also recommends using a “Box Support” structure style. Some support patterns are definitely easier to remove than others. In Dr. Bhate’s experience, ULTEM 9085 printed in “Box Style” is the best option.

TIP#3: Ultem 9085 support structures are best removed, while “the model-support interface is  warm,” Dr. Bhate reported. Warm material is malleable enough to be pulled off with acceptable amounts of force. If a part cools too long, greater force is needed to remove supports, which risks damaging the part or yourself.

This photo shows Dr. Bhate’s tips yielded an absolutely beautiful final result!

Vision Miner definitely recommends Dr. Bhate’s guidelines. Read his full case study here:

And always keep up to date on our latest articles on printing high-performance materials!