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Material Knowledgebase

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colorFabb is dedicated to developing innovative filaments that improve the quality of life for people around the world. Our team of engineers is dedicated to solving the toughest challenges, and we are looking for opportunities to co-develop new custom materials based on your requirements. We believe that everyone should have access to the best possible healthcare. 3D manufacturing can contribute to this goal.

What is Poly Hydroxy Alkanoate?

Poly Hydroxy Alkanoates (PHAs) are an emerging class of biopolymers that known for their excellent biodegradability combined with good mechanical properties. The demand for PHA is growing quickly as sustainable alternatives are needed to replace fuel-based, non-degradable plastics. Although PHA has been present in nature for millions of years, industrial production of PHA has only recently emerged and become commercially available, making it the “sleeping giant” of bioplastics. Currently, about 40 manufacturers and R&D institutes are involved in the production of PHA, mostly in Asia and North America. PHA is a more sustainable option compared to PLA because of its better biodegradability (home compostable at 28 °C) and more sustainable production process (no synthesis required). Even the printing process is sustainable, as no heated print bed is required and nozzle temperatures are similar to that of PHA.

PHA is naturally present as a fat store in certain types of bacteria. Hence, industrial production of PHA relies on bioreactors where sugars and oils from renewable sources (such as corn, tapioca and sugarcane) are fermented to PHA. After extracting the PHA from the bacteria, it is ready to be used for thermoplastic applications.

 

The type of PHA produced depends on the type of bacteria, feed source and the fermentation conditions. We combine different types of PHA to obtain a wide scale of mechanical properties, from plastics that are hard and brittle to plastics that are flexible and soft. Our recently launched PHA filament allPHA has mechanical properties similar to fossil based plastics. It is a rigid, tough material with strong layer adhesion. Furthermore, its high Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT) makes PHA suitable for high-heat applications for which Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) cannot be used. For more details about the mechanical properties of PHA, check out our technical data sheet here.

We are always open for collaborations and custom made solutions. For more information, contact our Product Heroes Gijs and Annemiek.

Types of PHA at colorFabb

The type of PHA produced depends on the type of bacteria, feed source and the fermentation conditions. We combine different types of PHA to obtain a wide scale of mechanical properties, from plastics that are hard and brittle to plastics that are flexible and soft.

Currently, the most well-known and used types of PHA are Poly Hydroxy Butyrate (PHB) and polyhydroxybutyrate-co-valerate (PHBV). These are both polymers with short side chains, and are therefore termed short chain length PHAs (scl-PHA). PHB is a scl-PHA that is stiff, brittle and difficult to process. By incorporating hydroxyvalerate (HV) monomers, which have a slightly longer side chain, the crystallinity is reduced resulting in a more flexible and processible copolymer named polyhydroxybutyrate-co-valerate (PHBV). Although PHBV is more ductile compared to PHB, the material is still quite hard and brittle and often needs to be modified to be used for a wider range of applications.

Figure 1: Molecular structure of PHBV

PHBH is a medium chain length PHA (mcl-PHA) with longer side chains compared to PHBV. Due to its longer side chains, the crystallization behavior is different and overall crystallinity is lower, resulting in a more ductile, tough and impact resistant material. Although the mechanical properties of this PHA type are very desirable, the material warps strongly and blending with other PHA types is required.

We prepare unique blends to enhance the mechanical properties and printability of PHA while maintaining biodegradability. All of our additives used are from a natural source and are either biodegradable or can be returned to nature without any harm.

Figure 1: Molecular structure of PHBV

Our filaments

Annemiek

Our own product hero!

Annemiek knows all about our materials and material development. 

colorFabb is dedicated to developing innovative filaments that improve the quality of life for people around the world. Our team of engineers is dedicated to solving the toughest challenges, and we are looking for opportunities to co-develop new custom materials based on your requirements. We believe that everyone should have access to the best possible healthcare. 3D manufacturing can contribute to this goal.

Interested in this material development opportunity? Please contact us via the button below and ask your question to Annemiek.

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