Executive InterviewsIndustrial Additive ManufacturingItalyMaterialsThermoplastic Polymers

Xenia’s entry into additive

An overview of the Italian company’s growing portfolio of high-performance composite materials optimized for extrusion-based additive manufacturing

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Founded nearly three decades ago, Italian company Xenia is an important player in the world of thermoplastic polymers. The company’s foundation is built on the development and production of composite materials for injection molding, and it has served many clients over the years from an array of different industries, including aerospace, agriculture, automotive, construction, energy, medical, consumer goods, sports, oil & gas and transportation. Most recently, the company has expanded its material development to include polymers optimized for additive manufacturing, and specifically pellet-based extrusion printers ranging in size from desktop FDM/FFF to large-format additive manufacturing (LFAM).

In a recent interview between VoxelMatters and Xenia Founder Fabio Azzolin, he told us the move into AM was “prompted by advancements in AM technologies that enabled the use of materials in pellet form to produce large parts more efficiently.” From there, the company refined many of its existing fiber-reinforced plastic formulations specifically for large-format extrusion machines and ultimately launched its 3DP MATERIALS business unit. Under this unit, the materials company offers a broad portfolio of AM-compatible materials, comprising the following product families: XECARB 3DP, XEBRID 3DP, XEGLASS 3DP, XELIGHT 3DP and XEGREEN 3DP.

The company exhibited its first high-performance composites for 3D printing at Formnext 2023, and has since released more AM-optimized grades, including the recent launch of XEGREEN 23-C20-3DP at JEC World 2024. As we’ll see in more detail, the company’s 3D printing granule materials are versatile and can accommodate a range of applications, whether end users are looking for more lightweight and economical alternatives to metal, a tough composite for tooling, or a flexible lightweight product for sporting applications.

An overview of Xenia’s growing portfolio of high-performance composite materials optimized for extrusion-based additive manufacturing.

XECARB 3DP

Xenia’s XECARB 3DP family of materials is based on its standard XECARB product range and consists of highly selected base polymers all reinforced with carbon fiber. The XECARB 3DP portfolio includes materials that cover the polymer pyramid, from the engineering polymers (e.g. HDPE, POM, ABS, PET-G) to high-performing ultra-polymers (e.g. PEI, PESU, PEEK, PPS), with a carbon fiber reinforcement that goes up to 50%. This group of materials is the broadest in Xenia’s portfolio and it is known for delivering superior mechanical features, low density and low thermal expansion, and is ideal for metal replacement and tooling applications.

According to Xenia, the greatest demand from LFAM 3D printing end users today is for composite tooling applications, and the XECARB  3DP range of carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastics is ideally suited to this application area. This is not only due to the toughness of the composites, but also the fact that the fiber reinforcement minimizes the risk of warping throughout the printing process resulting in high-fidelity parts with a high-quality surface finish, especially in curing processes.

Highlights:

  • High mechanical properties
  • Optimal modulus/density ratio
  • Lower electrical resistivity (surface and volumetric)

XEGLASS 3DP

The XEGLASS  3DP family includes a range of long-chain polyamides, like PA11, PA12, PA 6.12 and PA 4.10, reinforced with a high amount of glass fiber, which can be as much as 65%. These composites are known for being stiff and tough, making them suitable for specific structural projects that need to handle stress and stay strong over time, while also being able to withstand impacts.

The extra glass fiber reinforcement gives the compounds extra strength, making them a good choice for applications in industries like automotive, aerospace and consumer goods manufacturing. Plus, they’re still easy to use in the production process, meeting the needs of modern 3D printing manufacturing.

Highlights:

  • Based on lightweight long-chain polyamides
  • Electrically insulating
  • Colourable

An overview of Xenia’s growing portfolio of high-performance composite materials optimized for extrusion-based additive manufacturing. XEBRID 3DP

XEBRID 3DP material family is made up of thermoplastic composites reinforced with carbon and glass fibers. As with the XECARB 3DP family, the XEBRID 3DP family can be developed on the same polymer basis as its carbon-only counterpart, ranging from amorphous to semi-crystalline polymer bases. The combination of both carbon and glass fibers results in a material that has both the lightweight and stiffness characteristic of carbon fiber reinforcement and the mechanical and physical characteristics of glass fiber.

In terms of applications, the XEBRID 3DP family is an excellent candidate for metal replacement applications, enabling users to minimize costs while maintaining a high performance and process efficiency. Xenia cites several possible industries where XEBRID 3DP materials can make a difference, including agriculture equipment, construction, industrial equipment and oil and gas. XEBRID 3DP material properties can also benefit other areas, like sporting equipment, aeronautics and mobility and transportation, which require lightweight parts with excellent mechanical properties and good processability.

Highlights:

  • Good value proposition
  • Versatility
  • Low superficial and volumetric electrical conductivity
  • Combining the mechanical characteristics of XECARB 3DP with the tenacity and economy of XEGLASS 3DP

XELIGHT 3DP

Xelight 3DP is Xenia’s family of ultra-light PEBA-based compounds, a thermoplastic elastomer engineered for lightweight and flexible properties. These products are developed based on Arkema’s Pebax materials group, which offers low density, efficient energy return and cold temperature durability.

Optimized for large-format 3D printing, the XELIGHT’s family of compounds is notable for its combination of lightness (up to 0.87 g/cm3) and high impact strength (especially at low temperatures), as well as flexibility and excellent rebound. This specific combination of material properties makes the raw material ideal for applications in sports and marine, where minimal weight, flexibility and impact strength are required.

Highlights:

  • Materials lighter than water which permit a density advantage of up to 15% compared with unfilled standard grades
  • Variable hardness and density
  • Easily colorable

An overview of Xenia’s growing portfolio of high-performance composite materials optimized for extrusion-based additive manufacturing. XEGREEN 3DP

As the product name suggests, Xenia’s XEGREEN 3DP materials are the company’s most sustainable range. These 3D printing-optimized thermoplastics are made of up to 100% recycled polymers and carbon fibers, but still offer similar properties to the company’s standard XECARB 3DP grades (in terms of processability, mechanical properties and electrical characteristics).

This family of 3D printing materials includes compounds based on PA6, PA66, PP, PET-G, PEBA and PA12, each of these that can be reinforced up to a carbon fiber percentage of 50%.

Due to the comparable properties of these recycled materials to the XECARB 3DP family, the XEGREEN 3DP range is suitable for a variety of industrial applications, including 3D printing tools, molds and other production aids.

Highlights:

  • High content of recycled polymer and fiber, up to 100%
  • Batch-to-batch consistency
  • Mechanical properties comparable with the standard XECARB 3DP grades

An expanding 3DP portfolio

It has been less than a year since Xenia first launched its first composite grades optimized for extrusion-based additive manufacturing, and it already offers a versatile portfolio of materials, suitable for markets including industrial manufacturing, sporting goods, sustainable mobility, construction, energy and defense, among others.

Suffice to say, this is just the beginning for the Italian company, which has other AM materials on the horizon based on its existing product ranges, like XECARB  SL 3DP, a family of super-light structural compounds reinforced with carbon fibers; XECARB  HM 3DP, characterized by high-modulus carbon fiber reinforcement; and SOFT MATERIALS 3DP, a selection of thermoplastic elastomers reinforced with carbon and glass fibers. Ultimately, Xenia’s latest business expansion is not only creating opportunities for the company, but is broadening the market for high-performance 3D printing composites and ultimately creating new opportunities for AM end users and new adopters.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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