Photopolymer Week 2023 Insights from RadTech and PAMA

Photopolymer Week 2023 is shaping up to be the definitive event for leaders and those who want to understand the field.  

What’s on the agenda for Photopolymer Week 2023?

According to Mickey Fortune, Associate Executive Director at RadTech, The Association for UV & EB Technology, the agenda is “quite comprehensive.” Fortune said, “Photopolymer Week 2023 is a unique opportunity to engage with leading researchers and industry professionals in the photopolymerization field. Whether you’re an academic, a student, a scientist, or a professional in the industry, this event is a valuable opportunity to stay updated with the latest research and innovations, contribute to discussions about the future of photopolymerization, and network with peers.”

Photopolymer Week 2023 comprises two industry events over one week, the 2023 Photopolymer Additive Manufacturing Alliance (PAMA) Workshop and Photopolymerization Fundamentals 2023. Presentation topics include photoresponsive hydrogel materials and their applications, new approaches to photopolymerization reactions, advances in 3D printing of hydrogels, photopolymers with tailored properties via λ-orthogonal photochemistry, and innovations in sustainability and performance of photopolymer raw materials, among others. There will also be a poster session, a vendor exhibit, and ample time for audience discussion and Q&A.

Photopolymer Week is hosted at the University of Colorado in Boulder and runs from September 18th to 22nd. The event begins with the Photopolymer Additive Manufacturing Alliance (PAMA) Workshop from September 18th to 19th, with Photopolymerization Fundamentals taking place from September 19th through the 22nd.

David Walker, Executive Chairperson of the Photopolymer Additive Manufacturing Alliance (PAMA) and the CTO and Co-founder of PrintFoam, acknowledged the sector is “very technical and difficult to navigate” unless one has a solid understanding of chemistry, optics, hardware, and software. This is exacerbated by a lack of standardization in measurement, hindering apples-to-apples comparisons in materials and hardware.

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This recognition of standardization as a critical driver for 3D printing’s broader adoption is shared by RadTech America, itself a primary photochemical supply chain organization. Together with the Department of Commerce, these organizations strive for consistency in units and metrics, an initiative they see as crucial to the evolution of photopolymerization technology in the US supply chain. Part of that mission includes bringing together decision-makers at events such as Photopolymer Week. 

RadTech also works with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to host the PAMA 2023 Workshop during Photopolymer Week. NIST will moderate and participate in open-dialogue panels, including sessions on composites, ceramics, and multi-materials and how to enable next-generation photopolymers. The question of whether photopolymer Additive Manufacturing is compatible with a safe, sustainable, circular economy will be tackled by representatives from Formlabs, Nagase, and the University of Utah.

The future of Photopolymers for 3D printing

Attendees can expect to hear about cutting-edge research with numerous scientists and representatives from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Army Research Laboratory, and the Department of Energy in attendance. 

Technologically, PAMA’s Walker pinpoints the development and application of high-viscosity resin printers as a breakthrough in the 3D printing realm. Until recently, materials used in photopolymerization were seen as subpar and brittle. This perception was radically altered by Carbon, a 3D printing company, which showcased the potential of dual-cure photopolymer materials, establishing photopolymerization as a formidable manufacturing technique. Walker believes that new printer hardware, which unlocks the use of higher-viscosity photopolymers, will enable the next wave of improvement in photopolymer materials,  applications, and market growth.

Waker points out that photopolymers, once the underperformers of the 3D printing world, are now beginning to outshine other techniques, especially in terms of cost-effectiveness and versatility. In Walker’s view, their ability to be formulated almost without limitation is why they are increasingly used in ambitious applications.

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As part of its mandate to advance knowledge and standardization in the 3D printing sector, PAMA also plays a role in organizing Photopolymer Week. This event, Walker explained, has a strong academic link and includes a variety of educational short courses, allowing community members to deepen their understanding of the chemistry of photopolymer.

Why attend Photopolymer Week 2023?

RadTech’s Mickey Fortune explains that the two events that make up the week – the PAMA Workshop and Photopolymerization Fundamentals, “are carefully structured to facilitate candid conversations and discussions on both the current state and future directions of the field. The array of presentations, panel discussions, and Q&A sessions will enable attendees to delve into a wide range of topics, from the technical aspects of photopolymerization to broader questions about sustainability and applications in different sectors.”

For the layperson or newcomer interested in this field, Photopolymer Week offers an opportunity to learn and connect with the experts. It is also a chance to glimpse what the future holds for this technology from an industry insider’s perspective. Walker sees it as an attempt to recreate the conference that first ignited his passion for additive manufacturing, “sitting in the back of the auditorium as a newcomer to the field, watching and learning from the intense and intricate scientific debates that ensued, and hearing from multiple points of view on stage. It was a lot of fun.” 

But Walker’s excitement does not make him complacent. He stresses the importance of an honest, critical eye in assessing the potential of new technologies, citing his experience with RadTech and PAMA. He highlights that in an industry teeming with companies purporting to be ‘game-changers,’ it is vital to discern truly innovative technologies from merely incremental improvements and to question the degree of creativity involved. “Industry leaders need to acknowledge that many of the emerging technologies might have some new advantages, but they also usually come with some new limitations,” Walker notes, underlining the necessity for clarity and frankness in this rapidly evolving industry.

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It is clear that Walker is excited about the future of photopolymers in additive manufacturing. He champions their versatility and cost-effectiveness and is clearly eager to see how they will continue to push boundaries and spur innovation. He emphasizes that events like Photopolymer Week are key to promoting understanding and progress in this field and that critical analysis of new technologies is essential to ensure the industry’s continued growth. His parting words serve as a reminder of the potential that lies in the careful study and application of photopolymers: “I have a soft spot for polymers, I reckon.”

Want to know more? Read the full agenda and register for Photopolymer Week 2023.

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