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There are many 3D printing materials regularly hitting the market, but flame-retardant polymers is one category, in particular, that’s growing. Flame retardant materials prevent the spread of fires and are essential for some use cases. They can withstand high temperatures and are much less likely to catch and stay on fire.
In some regions and industries, laws and regulations require flame retardant properties of end-use parts. In other cases, 3D-printed tooling must be able to withstand high temperatures. Flame retardant materials help improve safety. Otherwise, there’d be a risk of part failure or spreading fire.
For all these reasons, flame retardant materials meet high certification standards for specific industries. This guide will look at some key use cases and detail some of the available flame retardant materials.
Flame Retardant Polymer Applications
Aerospace: Safety is critical in the aerospace industry. Strict regulations set the standard, so the industry needs to follow the rules when deploying parts. Airbus found success building interior cabin parts, such as panels, with flame retardant materials using Selective Laser Sintering and Fused Deposition Modeling. Emirates also uses flame-retardant materials to 3D print some parts, such as video monitor covers. All these parts follow strict heat release requirements, making them effective in the case of a fire.
Rail: Like the aerospace industry, the rail industry is also subject to strict safety regulations. 3D printing with flame-retardant materials has proven to be quite useful. Alstom, the multi-national manufacturer, uses flame-retardant 3D-printed air vents on some trains. Additive manufacturing is especially beneficial for creating spare parts on demand in the rail industry, reducing lead times and reducing storage costs.
Electronics: Flame retardancy is a helpful feature for electronic components. 3D printed materials are commonly used in “passive” parts of the component – such as housings and connectors – in case of an electrical fault. These parts are not only flame retardant but can be highly customized.
Are you 3D printing with polymers? Then you'll want to check out all the quality control options for your part.
Flame Resistant vs. Flame Retardant: What’s the Difference?
The terms flame resistant and flame retardant are often confused. Understandably so, as there are some similarities between the two terms. The main difference is that flame retardant materials can resist certain heat levels, but they’re designed to prevent fires from spreading. Flame-resistant materials are built to avoid burning at all.
Flame Retardant Polymer Examples
There are many different flame retardant polymers available, with new materials or variations regularly being developed by different companies. On the MakerVerse platform, several different flame retardant polymers are available.
PA-12 Flame Retardant
Technology: Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
PA 12 is a standard material when using SLS technology. It combines high tensile strength with stability. This variant of PA 12 version has a special flame retardant chemical added to it. This material is commonly used in the aerospace and rail sector. See the data sheet.
Key Qualifications: CS 25 (European Aviation Safety Agency specification for large airplanes), JAR 25 (Joint Aviation Requirement), FAR 25 (USA Federal Aviation Administration) UL 94 V-0 (Standard for Tests for Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances).
Technology: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
ULTEM 1010 is a high-performance thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) offering the lowest coefficient of thermal expansion among all FDM materials. It also boasts high heat resistance, tensile strength, and chemical resistance. These properties make the material ideal for challenging and specialized use cases. See the data sheet.
Key Qualifications: FAR 25 and OSU 65/65 (USA Federal Aviation Administration) UL 94 V-0 and 5 VA
Technology: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
ULTEM 9085 is a high-performance thermoplastic offering high strength. That, combined with its flame retardancy, makes it widely used in the aviation and rail industries. See the data sheet.
Key Qualifications: FAR 25 and OSU 65/65, EN45545 R6-HL3 rating (European Railway Standard for Fire Safety), UN ECE Regulation 118 (Fire Protection of Buses).