Greener Plastics with High Heat Tolerance for Additive ManufacturingEPA Contract Number: 68HERC20C0003
Title: Greener Plastics with High Heat Tolerance for Additive Manufacturing
Investigators: DiCarmine, Paul
Small Business: Intelligent Optical Systems Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Project Period: November 1, 2019 through October 31, 2021 (Extended to April 30, 2022)
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2019) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Heavy Metal Contamination of Soil/Water , SBIR - Manufacturing , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , Urban Air Toxics
Advances in materials and automation are rapidly reshaping the American manufacturing economy, and must be embraced to sustain a strong manufacturing sector in the United States. Additive manufacturing is possibly the fastest growing example of this trend, growing at an astonishing compound annual growth rate of 25.7%. The plastic materials market for additive manufacturing, valued at $700M in 2020, is projected to grow even faster, up to 34.6% to 2023 ($1.8B). Additive manufacturing is not only a growing source of plastic consumption, but also a growing source of plastic waste. Traditional plastics used in additive manufacturing are produced from fossil-derived, volatile and toxic chemicals, and are not degradable, but existing greener alternatives are not heat tolerant and deform at <60°C. Despite this severe limitation, greener plastics already account for 32% of material used in additive manufacturing, a market trend that indicates a strong demand for a greener, heat tolerant plastic. In the work performed to date, we have produced a biothermoplastic polymer with a measured glass transition temperature of 92°C, comparable to those of the most common fossil-based thermoplastics (ABS, poly(styrene), PETG) used in additive manufacturing. This plastic is produced from bio- based, non-toxic, solid (i.e. non-volatile) feedstock, and incorporates carbon-oxygen bonds into its backbone like poly(lactic acid), which facilitate degradation and depolymerization at end of life. We incorporated the polymer into filament for additive manufacturing, and used this novel filament to produce a demonstrator 3D printed part with quality matching that of a part printed from poly(lactic acid), the material most commonly used in 3D printing despite its low glass transition temperature. Our polymer measured a glass transition temperature 44°C higher than that of poly(lactic acid), which will enable us to infuse our polymer into the 3D printing market as a high heat tolerant greener thermoplastic. Due to the advanced TRL of our polymer, we anticipate our first sales in the Phase II Commercialization Option. In our Commercialization Plan, we identify customers for which this product would satisfy an important need. IOS estimates cumulative sales revenues of $98M and cumulative licensing revenues of $9M over the first 10 years of commercialization. After demonstrating market success and revenue as a greener, heat tolerant material for additive manufacturing, we anticipate finding applications in other products that require greener, non-toxic, and/or degradable heat tolerant plastics.