What exactly is a biopolymer?
Put simply, a biopolymer is a polymer material created from naturally occurring feedstocks (raw materials). Most sources of biopolymers are made from a renewable resource and some even claim to be biodegradable. Key takeaway: a biopolymer is a polymer that's free of fossil fuels and is paving the way for a more sustainable option for 3D printing.
Curious about sustainable 3D printing and what options are available? Read on for some additional insights into bio-polymers – and new details on Braskem’s unique line of bio-based 3D printing filaments.
Why reach for a biopolymer?
Biopolymers are wildly versatile and typically have the same performance characteristics as their petroleum-filled counterparts. In addition to 3D printing, biopolymers are already being used in a diverse array of applications such as:
● Food packaging
● Healthcare and Cosmetics
● Medical implants and tissue scaffolding
● Textiles for clothing, towels, and carpets
● Interior and exterior parts for the automotive industry
However, the primary reason for most is clear: sustainability. With ever-increasing applications and demand for 3D printing, sustainability has entered the conversation and claimed a seat at the table. Biopolymers have the power to help significantly reduce the overall carbon footprint of 3D printing while maintaining similar performance standards of fossil fuel based thermoplastics.
Braskem is leading the way to a more sustainable future.
Braskem, the largest polyolefins producer in the Americas and leading producer of biopolymers in the world, recently invested over $60 million in biopolymer production, proving their commitment to the sustainable development of the 3D printing industry. Braskem’s I’m GreenTM plastic was “developed to promote the better use of natural resources.”
In seeking to improve people’s lives while reducing their impact on the planet, Braskem currently produces biopolymers for many major industrial segments including:
● Food and beverage packaging
● Sporting items
● Automotive parts
● Packaging for cosmetic and hygiene products
Since the launch of their 3D printing materials division in 2020, Braskem is actively working to bring their expertise in biopolymers to the 3D printing industry. In 2022, Braskem launched their first line of bio-based filaments for 3D printing. A flexible bio-based EVA filament, the first of its kind, it is made from sustainable sourced raw sugar cane as well as a bio-based polyethylene filament, both are available in 1.75mm and 2.85mm diameters:
● FL600EVA-BIO – the first bio based flexible filament of its kind with printability similar to other flexible filaments (TPUs) on the market.
● FL600PE-BIO – a Bio based PE (polyethylene) filament that is lightweight, has excellent chemical resistance, and is very durable.
Both of these 3D filaments are available in a natural opaque white color, additional colors may be available on request.
FL600EVA-BIO: Industry leading flexible Bio-Based EVA filament
Braskem FL600EVA-BIO is a bio-based ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) 3D filament, derived from raw sugar care, providing a more sustainable alternative to traditional flexible materials available on the market. This low carbon footprint formulation delivers a unique combination of sustainability, flexibility, ductility, light weighting, and moisture resistance for direct drive printing 3D printing systems. Most flexible applications currently handled by materials such as TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) can easily be replaced with this more sustainable Bio-EVA 3D filament. FL600EVA-BIO
As far as Shore A hardness (a standard measurement of the hardness of polymers), Braskem’s FL600EVA-BIO filament hit a mid-range score of 94. Other comparable 3D filaments on the market range from 63 to 120.
This stellar bio-EVA is perfect for a myriad of flexible applications, including:
● Clamps & Sockets
● Footwear and Fashion
● Airless tires
● Sports balls
FL600PE-BIO: Revolutionary Bio-Based Polyethylene filament
Braskem’s FL600PE-BIO is a bio-based polyethylene (PE) filament that also produces excellent prints. This formulation is also derived from raw sugar care, providing a more sustainable alternative to existing materials available on the market. This low carbon footprint formulation is designed to be easy to print, lightweight, and highly moisture & chemical resistant.
As is expected with all material of this kind, you’ll need to be sure to follow the printing conditions provided. Using the proper print settings is key to managing any potential warpage - a distortion in the 3D print caused by changing temperatures across the piece. Of course, after a few test prints you will quickly develop a knack for selecting the right parameters.
This PE biopolymer can be used in most typical PE applications:
● Packaging items
● Rapid Prototypes
● Connections & Fittings
● Automotive parts
Want to learn even more about Braskem sustainable materials?
Head to Braskem’s I’m Green™ webpage. There you’ll take a deep dive into Braskem’s revolution in the production of plastic resins: “the world’s first bio-based plastic produced on an industrial scale, a polyethylene made from sugarcane.” Renewably sourced and recyclable, the I’m GreenTM portfolio of products combine innovation and renewable chemistry to help fight climate change.