MANHEIM, Pa.- May 1, 2014 — Fenner Drives®, a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of added-value, problem solving products for power transmission, motion transfer and conveying applications announces the global availability of NinjaFlex, a revolutionary thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) 3D printer filament, enhancing the design possibilities with existing desktop 3D printers.
“Until recently, prototyping flexible components was a time-consuming and cumbersome process,” notes Stephen Heston, product development engineer for Fenner Drives, and 3D printing enthusiast. Heston continues, “It was a big gap in the market, because so many engineered products utilize elastomeric parts. Without materials that closely approximate the properties of the end product, it is impossible to create truly functional prototypes.”
Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) is the newest type of fused deposition modeling filament, although the larger category has been around for over 40 years. In early 2013, a small team led by Heston started experimenting with Fenner Drives’ polyurethanes for a link-belt project at the company. They needed a fast way to prototype flexible components for themselves. According to Heston, he had heard of other 3D enthusiasts using Fenner Drives belting material as feed stock in 3D printers; however, the results were not ideal. An iterative product development process was kicked off by the Fenner Drives’ engineering team, and through this process a viable, marketable 3D printer filament was discovered.
In October 2013, Fenner Drives did a soft launch with NinjaFlex TPE printer filament, initially available in four colors: Snow, Fire, Midnight and Sapphire. Within months, the NinjaFlex line has been expanded, and five new filament colors have been added: Lava, Flamingo, Grass, Sun and Water.
Within six months of soft launch, NinjaFlex has become one of the most heavily buzzed about 3D printer materials. “We fill a market space that is not currently occupied by any other filament manufacturer,” states Stan Kulikowski, applications engineer for Fenner Drives. He adds, “Most filaments currently in the market are in the 45D-75D (Shore D) hardness range; we are playing in the 85A (Shore A) range -- think hard polycarbonate sheets versus flexible shoe soles, respectively.”
NinjaFlex received an array of positive reviews at the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo, held April 2-4, in New York City. Jack Krecek, president of Fenner Drives U.S., comments, “Show feedback was great many knew about NinjaFlex from their own forum research and use, and were excited to share their experiences, while others were seeing us generate high quality, flexible prints for the first time.” Krecek adds, “Numerous show visitors were surprised to learn that NinjaFlex can be used in many of today’s popular 3D desktop printers, including MakerBot®, MendelMax™, RepRap, Ordbot, Airwolf® and Lulzbot™ models.” Krecek notes, “NinjaFlex is a game-changing product; it expands 3D printer capabilities by providing a more elastic filament solution, as opposed to the more common Petroleum-based Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), and plant starch-based Polylactic Acid (PLA) materials.”
Even though NinjaFlex has caught the eye of 3D home enthusiasts, creating everything from BMX® bike handle grips to flexible wristbands, it has also been used in medical prototyping. According to a news story by WHAS11 in Louisville, KY, doctors knew a 14-month old was born with four congenital heart defects and he needed surgery; however, the young child’s condition was so rare the surgeon had many different routes he could take to repair the defects. For the first time ever in Kentucky, using a 3D printer and NinjaFlex filament, a model one and half times the size of the child’s heart was created. Costing roughly $600, the 3D printed heart model was used to prepare for the procedure, and University of Louisville Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Dr. Erle Austin III was able to repair the heart in just one surgery.
The textured exterior surface of NinjaFlex filament promotes easy feeding and reduces waste, while the high-quality, durable material used to create NinjaFlex helps ensure reliability. NinjaFlex is made in the USA, with US-based customer and technical support. In the coming months, NinjaFlex will continue to become more widely available through authorized distributors in response to ever-increasing market demand.
About Fenner Drives
With ISO 9001 certified production facilities in Manheim, Pa., and Wilmington, N.C., Fenner Drives offers a wealth of manufacturing, technical and commercial expertise. Fenner Drives is a division of Fenner PLC. With over 5,200 employees worldwide, Fenner PLC is a leading global provider of local, engineered solutions for performance critical applications.