Aaron Pearson
Vice President of Public Relations

3d printed air duct A scaled down carbon wrapped air duct made from FDM soluble cores

FDM soluble support material holds much more value than just support. In fact, some of our customers purchase FDM-based machines in part to use the soluble support itself.  On the Fortus 3D Production Systems, the model material can be changed to support material, leading to a host of new and unique applications—most popular are soluble cores for composite parts.

Composite parts are manufactured by winding, wrapping, molding and laying up various combinations of materials and resin systems on molds, bucks, patterns, cores and mandrels. Producing hollow composite parts that trap the pattern can present a manufacturing challenge. Imagine wrapping an apple in plastic wrap and leaving a little hole in the bottom, then, given a spoon to scoop the apple out without damaging the saran wrapped shell. With FDM-produced soluble cores, the “apple” can just be set in a support removal tank and dissolved away quickly and quietly.

formula sae, 3d printing Students at ELiTH Racing with their Formula SAE race car that utilized FDM

Here’s a practical, real example to illustrate the process.

ELiTH Racing is a Formula SAE sanctioned non-profit Students Association at Linköping University in Sweden. Students from ELiTH optimized the air intake manifold on their Formula SAE race car by 3D printing the soluble core — giving them a design advantage to outperform the competition. On top of that, they added multiple 3D printed parts to their race car, utilizing their 3D printer for fixtures, functional prototypes, mounts, and end-use parts.

See how they did it by watching this short video clip

Printable soluble cores can only be produced by Stratasys 3D Printers and Production Systems and offer superb advantages for our customers. ELiTH Racing was able to use their support material to their advantage by creating soluble cores. With soluble cores being just one of the hundreds of applications of FDM technology, it is becoming a necessary and adored machine in many manufacturing facilities.

joe gibbs racing, 3d printed air duct An air-duct and mounting plate created using FDM soluble support—designed at Joe Gibbs Racing

Technical Summary:

Soluble Cores are a best fit when:

  • Small quantities (often less than 100 parts) of high-value components with short lead times
    • Functional prototypes for evaluation
    • Low-volume (custom) manufacturing

  • Part characteristics:
    • Complex, intricate design
      • Hollow Parts
      • Under Cuts

  • Curing temp of composite is less than HDT or melt temp of Soluble
    • 250 °F (121 °C) for SR-100
    • 180 °F (82 °C) for SR-30

  • Design modifications likely