ULTEM Takes 3D Part Strength to Another Level

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) offers a wide array of robust thermoplastics to choose from. These strong materials are able to perform in demanding prototype and end-use applications.

But sometimes extra strength is needed and only a certain material is able to do the job. For these situations, ULTEM 9085 is a high-performance thermoplastic suited for parts that need superior durability.
3D printing ultem

It is this toughness that makes it commonly used in automotive and aerospace industries. There are a few specific benefits of this material to note:

High heat deflection: One of ULTEM’s greatest strengths is its ability to stand up to high temperatures, with a heat deflection tested at 307 degrees Fahrenheit.[1] A common use for ULTEM is in aerospace and automotive duct work—lightweight applications that require a high heat deflection. This also makes ULTEM a good choice for medical devices that are sterilized through high-temperature processes such as autoclaving.

Existing certifications: ULTEM is FST rated and one of the only 3D printing plastics certified for aircraft components. In the aerospace industry, most parts are required to have this rating to ensure the flame, smoke and toxicity (FST) resistance of a material. In addition, ULTEM has a V-0 flammability rating, giving it excellent flame retardant properties.

Strength-to-weight ratio: In the aerospace industry, the total weight of an aircraft affects fuel consumption. The components inside aircraft have an impact on this weight but there is a balance in reducing weight while maintaining safety and functionality. ULTEM offers a significant weight reduction when compared with metal components such as aluminum but can offer comparable impact strength.

Aesthetics: While ULTEM makes it name in its mechanical properties, the material’s appearance also is an important part of its value. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing offers ULTEM in two colors: tan and black. For automotive and aerospace applications, black helps the ULTEM parts blend in with other components, creating a uniform look. The black color can also hide wear marks well, which is helpful when exposed to the dirt and grease that automotive parts are routinely subjected to.

When choosing ULTEM for your next project, there are a couple of things to consider when designing your parts:

Breakaway support material: For most FDM thermoplastics, the support material used in the build process for overhangs, holes and other geometries built over air is water soluble. For ULTEM, the support material used is broken away by hand after the part is built. This can pose challenges for fine features, which can be damaged when the supports are removed. However, our project engineers can help you avoid this by adjusting the file a number of ways, including changing the build orientation to reduce the amount of support material needed.

Finishing: For applications that require a custom finish, ULTEM can be painted or finished in different textures using bead blasting or sanding. Because it is a high-strength material, it is important to note that ULTEM’s strong surface will take more time to sand and finish by hand. ULTEM is also commonly electroplated, which can give parts even better heat deflection and improved chemical resistance. All finishing processes can alter the tolerances of the part, so adjusting the design file beforehand will help to ensure dimensional accuracy.

Whether it is for functional prototyping or end-use applications, ULTEM’s strength and existing certifications make it a good choice for a variety of parts.

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