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Xenia Materials has big plans for AM

The Italian expert in advanced composite materials for aerospace and sports has ventured into the strategic large-format AM segment, offering an exceptional product portfolio.

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Xenia‘s story mirrors that of many other Italian companies – a tale of excellence built on people and innovation. This is best illustrated by the company’s claim driving its expansion into the LFAM (large-format additive manufacturing) 3D printing market with an unmatched array of advanced composite pellet materials: “People who Think about and Innovate Materials.” “Just four words, but they are anything but ordinary,” says Fabio Azzolin, the company’s Founder – now also Manager of New Business Development – as he introduces the company’s ambitious initiatives in additive manufacturing.

Founded in 1995 in Mussolente (Vicenza), the company offers a wide selection of carbon and/or glass fiber composites, as well as ultra-light structural composites based on specialized thermoplastic matrix materials.

Fueled by innovation from the start, Xenia initially focused on developing cutting-edge composite materials for injection molding. “In the beginning, lightweight and mechanical properties were not commonly discussed,” states Azzolin. “However, we started with a clear and precise goal of creating composite structural components, which led us to embed state-of-the-art engineering into each product.”

Xenia Materials, experts in composite materials for aerospace and sports ventured into the LFAM segment with an exception product portfolio

A mountain of opportunities

Due to these unique material properties, the primary application sector was aerospace in the early 2000s. Partnering with Leonardo, one of Italy’s leading aerospace companies, they collaborated on tailor-made reinforced thermoplastics aimed at reducing weight and improving performance.

“We developed some exceptional materials – including several based on polymers accessible exclusively through an ongoing partnership with Arkema – but we encountered challenges due to lengthy approval processes in the aerospace industry,” Azzolin explains. “Luckily, being located near Montebelluna in Italy’s ‘Sport System district,’ close to some of the most advanced winter sports companies worldwide, they recognized the potential of our materials and quickly seized the opportunity to create a new range of lighter products. “Consequently, these innovative materials were successfully integrated. As a result, Xenia’s product portfolio expanded to include over 150 customizable items tailored to the application and specific client demands. Today, Xenia serves end markets across sports, agriculture, aerospace, automotive, transportation, oil & gas, alternative energy, building and construction, infrastructure, machinery, and the medical sector. Xenia® materials are highly recommended for metal replacement in companies looking to improve performance, reduce weight, and cut costs. The polymer bases are categorized as amorphous and semi-crystalline polymers and can withstand continuous use temperatures of up to 350°C (see attached pyramid for details).

By incorporating structural reinforcements, particularly carbon fiber, solutions with tensile moduli up to 40000 MPa can be achieved by adjusting the percentage of carbon fiber (which can reach up to 50%) and the base polymer.

While polymers offer excellent electrical insulation properties, they can lead to the accumulation of electrostatic charges, posing safety risks for personnel and equipment, especially in explosive environments. Xenia® products, utilizing the conductive properties of carbon fiber, can produce grades that are structurally sound and electrically conductive, with a surface resistivity of up to 100 Ω. This allows for the use of plastic parts in ATEX environments.

By incorporating fillers like graphite and special ceramics dispersed in the polymer matrix, thermal conductivity values exceeding 15 W/mK can be achieved through carbon fiber. Consequently, thermally conductive compounds can efficiently transmit heat even through plastic elements, offering numerous advantages over metals like aluminum in terms of weight, chemical resistance, processability, environmental impact, and overall cost.

Furthermore, more than 30% of Xenia® formulations include biopolymers, aligning with Xenia®’s commitment to sustainable solutions in its innovative product range. Through dedicated research projects, ongoing development of expertise and processes, and collaboration with partners, Xenia aims to tackle social challenges faced by its customers today and in the future. The company is devoted to creating more sustainable materials and solutions with minimal ecological impact, demonstrated through its portfolio of alternative products – from recycled to bio-based – that match the performance levels of traditional products, thereby eliminating the need for requalification or adaptation of alternative processing equipment.

The extensive expertise in this field led to the establishment of Xenia Materials as a dedicated division for 3D printing applications.

Xenia Materials, experts in composite materials for aerospace and sports ventured into the LFAM segment with an exception product portfolio

Xenia Materials is born

“We realized we had an excellent selection of materials at our disposal. A year ago, we decided to venture into additive manufacturing. This decision was prompted by advancements in AM technologies that enabled the use of materials in pellet form to produce large parts more efficiently,” Azzolin explains.

These advancements, along with emerging market demands, drove collaborations with Xenia’s clients and partners to enhance the possibilities in additive manufacturing. While these materials were originally designed for injection molding, they have now been optimized for 3D printing to meet the needs of a diverse clientele.

Xenia chose to introduce its new line of 3D printing materials on global stage offered by Formnext. By leveraging its existing and extensive product range, Xenia adjusted and refined each formulation for additive manufacturing, ensuring compatibility with various large format material extrusion 3D printers (LSAM, FGF). This led to the launch of the new 3DP MATERIALS business unit.

These offerings provide high stiffness, dimensional stability, low density, minimal thermal expansion, and extended service life over different temperature ranges. The materials are composed of unique resins blended with fibers and additives, customized for pellet-based material extrusion printers, ranging from smaller sizes like FDM/FFF to LFAM processes for both production and high-precision manufacturing using hybrid LFAM/CNC capabilities.

Xenia Materials, experts in composite materials for aerospace and sports ventured into the LFAM segment with an exception product portfolio

All Xenia high-performance composites offer exceptional stiffness, dimensional stability, low density, low thermal expansion, and high durability at various temperatures. They are extensions of Xenia’s existing product families and are marketed under the brands Xecarb®, Xebrid™, Xelight®, and Xegreen®, specifically tailored for 3D printing.

The Xecarb® range includes six different matrix resins (PEI, HDPE, ABS, PC, PESU, and PC-ABS) reinforced with 20% carbon fiber. These are standard materials, though Xenia has refined their formulation over the years. Other materials are even more unique. For instance, Xelight is an ultra-lightweight PEBA crafted for AM, while Xebrid™ is an ABS with a unique blend of 10% carbon fiber and 20% glass fiber reinforcement. The materials in the Xegreen range, PA6, PA66, and PET-G, are all recycled or recyclable, also enhanced with carbon fiber.

These high-performance, recyclable materials are suitable for various applications and markets, from industrial to sporting, sustainable mobility, and defense sectors. Azzolin is highly optimistic about the future opportunities that AM will bring to Xenia, just as he believes that Xenia Materials will create new opportunities for AM adoption as its People continue to Think about new ways to Innovate Materials.

*This article was created in partnership with Xenia Materials. Meet the Xenia Materials team at JEC World 2024, Hall 5 Booth C79.

Research
Composites AM 2024

This new market study from VoxelMatters provides an in-depth analysis and forecast of the three core segments of the composites additive manufacturing market: hardware, materials and services. The ...

Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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