PA11: Bio-Based 3D Printing Polymer Material

PA11: Bio-Based 3D Printing Polymer Material

In an era defined by environmental consciousness, the marriage of sustainability and additive manufacturing emerges as a beacon of hope for a more eco-friendly production landscape. As the demand for high-performance materials continues to soar, so does the imperative to source them responsibly. Yet, in the pursuit of a sustainable approach to 3D printing materials, a question emerges: can a material embody both ecological responsibility and superior performance?

Where Innovation Meets Responsibility

At the core of Endeavor 3D’s mission lies a steadfast commitment to ethical sourcing and more sustainable practices throughout every phase of the additive manufacturing process. We believe that quality and innovation should not come at the cost of environmental degradation, and this includes the materials we use. That’s why we have chosen to partner with Arkema, a recognized leader in the 3D printing industry renowned for their dedication to sustainability.

Arkema is a global provider of specialty materials including 3D printing liquid resins and thermoplastics. However, Krysten Minnici, a Business Development Scientist at Arkema, says “Arkema goes beyond being just a 3D printing material supplier. The company focuses on bringing comprehensive solutions and expertise to its customers. This includes identifying customer needs from a raw material standpoint and helping our partners bring those solutions to life.”

Arkema’s holistic approach to sustainability extends across its entire operations, encompassing commitments to climate action and reductions in environmental footprint. Arkema is working to reduce the consumption of resources, such as energy and water, decrease the emissions stemming from its activity, develop the use of renewable resources, and foster a circular economy. By using materials enabled by our trusted partner, such as polyamide 11 (PA11) based powders, we ensure that every print produced with Endeavor 3D converts raw materials to high-quality, functional parts with minimal waste.

From Plant to Polymer

When looking at a material that encompasses a more sustainable and high-performance profile, the material polyamide 11 (PA11) arises as a key player. Originating from the castor plant, a renewable resource, PA11 is composed of 100% bio-based material. The bean – or seed – produced from the castor plant contains around 45% oil and 55% cake which is used for fertilizer. Amino 11, produced from castor oil, is polymerized to produce the high-performance polyamide 11. This transformative process is facilitated by the abundance of castor plants in Gujarat, India, where 80% of the world’s castor is cultivated. The region’s conductive conditions, including marginal soils and monsoon rains, foster optimal growth.

High Performance

“The unique 11-carbon semi-crystalline structure yields an impressive balance of properties,” says Krysten Minnici. This defining feature contributes significantly to its exceptional performance.

One of the primary benefits of this molecular arrangement is its excellent mechanical strength, making it ideal for technical, end-use production parts. The material’s tensile strength of 52 MPa provides impressive resistance to deformation and fracture. According to Arkema, while durable, PA11 is exceptionally light with a neat resin density of only 1.03 g/cm 3. Additionally, PA11’s superior high and low-temperature performance makes it well-suited for applications that are regularly exposed to extreme temperatures, such as automotive or industrial machinery parts. The material can withstand temperatures ranging from -40°C to 130°C.

To learn more about PA11’s exceptional mechanical properties click here.

A Bio Based Material

Given Polyamide 11 castor oil origin, the material has a more favorable sustainability profile. According to Arkema, compared to fossil-based polyamides using conventional methods, PA11 exhibits a 70% decrease in carbon footprint. In 2023, Arkema signed a major biomethane supply agreement with ENGIE to further reduce the carbon footprint of its bio-based polyamide 11 materials. Biomethane, derived from organic waste materials, is a renewable and carbon-neutral energy source that significantly reduces the environmental impact of PA11 production.

Arkema’s initiative continues to make a positive impact on the surrounding environment. The company’s PA11 material reached a carbon footprint of < 2 kg CO2e/kg in 2023 with a continual initiative to further lower it by 2030.

Photo courtesy of Arkema

Sustainable Farming

Arkema’s initiatives to support more sustainable castor bean farming in India have led the company to co-found the Sustainable Castor Association and develop the success sustainability castor code, alongside organizations such as BASF, Jayant Agro-Organics, and Solidaridad. Based on it, they launched the Pragati Initiative. The goal of this collaborative effort is to use more sustainable agricultural practices to increase yield, boost farmer income, efficiently use water resources, and maintain soil fertility. Furthermore, the Pragati Initiative aims to empower local communities by driving the adoption of good waste management methods, enabling better health and safety practices, and respecting human rights.

As a result, over 7,850 farmers from 100+ villages have been trained, audited, and certified in castor farming. More than 74,500 tons of certified castor beans have been cultivated from 2017 to 2023. By enabling more sustainable castor crop production, Arkema has fostered economic development for farmers across the Gujarat region, representing a year 7 yield that is 45% higher than that published by the local government in this region.

Photo courtesy of Arkema

Charting a Sustainable Course

As the demand for sustainable solutions continues to grow, Arkema’s PA11 stands as a testament to the power of innovation and responsibility. Its journey from castor plant to high-performance material embodies our commitment to quality 3D printed parts that promote a healthier environment.

At Endeavor 3D, we are proud to champion this cause across every stage of the additive manufacturing process, from concept to creation. Ready to forge a path towards more sustainable manufacturing practices? Learn more about how PA11 can benefit your project. Contact us today.

Join us at NPE 2024 in Orlando from May 6-10 at our booth, #S24209, where Arkema’s Krysten Minnici will be presenting on the topic of sustainable materials for 3D printing applications.

Krysten has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering/M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Drexel University. She started her career at Arkema in Corporate Research as a Rotational Scientist, working across seven different business units on a variety of exploratory research topics. For the past two years, she has worked as a Business Development Scientist in High-Performance Polymers on 3D printing applications for Kepstan® PEKK and Rilsan® polyamide-11.

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