From Beaker to Box: How Materials Science can be Revolutionized through a Broader Perspective

At Jabil, we share a unique philosophy we call “from beaker to box.” It’s a concept that has developed over years of working at every level of the additive manufacturing process and refining the model from the formulation of materials to final packaging to ensure success.

Today, “beaker to box” is a methodology that is executed under one roof, Jabil’s Material Innovation Center, where Jabil is revolutionizing the materials science behind additive manufacturing (AM) by leveraging expertise across the entire materials development process, from polymerizations and analytical testing to formulation and materials system integration.

Rethinking additive manufacturing materials

The Materials Innovation Center evolved out of gaps in the engineered materials space, particularly for high-end applications in the marketplace. In the early days, general purpose materials used for prototyping were always built on assumptions, including aesthetics, physical properties, and printing speeds of the material. Jabil wanted to break these assumptions and work with open platform systems that would enable us to decide where, on this triangle of optimization, a given part would fall. The goals were quite simple: if a customer needed a part with enduring strength, we needed to build the right material. If they wanted a part that meets key criteria as part of a beautiful aesthetic design, we could engineer it. If they need quick turnaround on a material for a generic part, we had the material and technology to test and build it. In short, the goal was to develop engineered materials that would work for additive manufacturing, instead of trying to adapt AM to work with the materials at hand.

What’s unique about the Materials Innovation Center?

With this goal of shaking off previous assumptions about engineered materials and additive manufacturing, an ISO 9001 certified, 46,000 square foot innovation center was constructed. The center can produce a complete AM materials solution, including polymerization, analytical testing, formulation and compounding, form factor conversion, material system integration and quality control. And the materials are all created with Jabil’s Materials, Processes and Machines (MPM) qualification.

Through our work in the Materials Innovation Center, certain materials have been produced through the additive manufacturing process that the general prevailing wisdom said could not be successfully accomplished. Jabil’s unique experience as both producer and consumer of these materials enabled the development of new solutions to address previous printing challenges. In some cases, it might have required one small detail of the printing process to be changed to gain access to an entirely new material for additive manufacturing.

How this will impact manufacturing?

Thermoplastic elastomers are an excellent example of the value of Jabil’s approach. Many Jabil customers appreciate the feel and performance of thermoplastic urethane (TPU), but this material does not have a high print success rate as it retains moisture that ultimately results in bubbles, color changes and curling in the material. But our team discovered that modifying another material, Thermoplastic

Elastomer Styrene Ethylene Butylene Styrene (TPE SEBS), that is non-hygroscopic, enables it to meet the standards of an injection mold process through 3D printing.

Our team at the Materials Innovation Center has developed a carbon fiber nylon product ( PA 4035 CF) that features the stiffness and rigidity of the aluminum, but with a significant reduction in cost and weight that rivals that of CNC Aluminum. This material prints well and can be used for work holding, and fixtures. Other AM-friendly materials developed include PETg, an easy processing product for jobs requiring good strength and stiffness with a good balance of properties in XY and XYZ directions and PETg 0800 ESD, an Electrostatic Dissipative (ESD) product for printing parts that contact sensitive electronics.

From medical technology and consumer electronics to shoes and razors, Jabil has innovated a broad scope of materials for applications where there is direct engagement in the manufacturing of products across a multi-spectrum of verticals. We are actively rolling out new and unique materials that can deliver the properties that specific industries demand, while opening up options for new features and capabilities previously thought impossible. Jabil partners with companies at all stages of manufacturing and delivers custom materials in a distributed manufacturing model that addresses immediate BOM and supply chain constraints. The “Beaker to Box” materials science work that’s in play at Jabil’s Materials Innovation Center has the power to energize manufacturing in unprecedented ways. How will you leverage it?