3D printing is a fascinating method for designing three-dimensional parts of complex geometry on computer, and then using the CAD data to manufacture the parts on a special 3D printer. Prototypes and samples can be fabricated layer by layer at a reasonable cost.
After recognizing the advantages of these additive manufacturing processes, industry now also views them as a major opportunity for efficient mass production of complex or individualized parts.
3D printing has to clear some hurdles before it can go into more widespread use. One key issue is the lack of suitable materials. While over 3,000 materials1 are available for conventional component manufacturing, only about 30 are available for 3D printing.
New materials for all common 3D methods
Covestro, a world leader in polymer technology, currently is developing a comprehensive range of filaments, powders and liquid resins for all common 3D printing methods.
“We market products with a variety of properties like toughness and heat resistance as well as transparency and flexibility that support a number of new applications,” said Dr. Markus Steilemann, Chief Innovation Officer at Covestro. “Covestro's efforts will make a key contribution to advancing the use of 3D printing in industrial mass production. We believe the material data now need to be integrated into the software used on 3D printers so that component structures can be further optimized,” Steilemann said.
“We want to work with leading partners in the process chain to further advance these developments,” added Julien Guiu, who leads the company's global 3D printing activities. “These include formulators, 3D printer manufacturers, software companies, service providers and of course OEMs.”
For this purpose, Covestro recently opened a new laboratory for 3D printing at its headquarters in Leverkusen. The lab will soon be receiving additional equipment and is used by the company and its partners to develop material solutions and test them under practical conditions. The Covestro competence team for additive manufacturing has extensive know-how in the processing of materials using common 3D printing technologies.
Versatile offer for fused filament fabrication process (FFF)
Covestro offers a broad choice of filaments for the FFF process, from flexible thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) to high strength polycarbonate (PC).
Covestro TPU is very well suited for additive manufacturing thanks to its excellent abrasion resistance and elasticity. Typical applications are sports, footwear or automotive.
Covestro PC grades transformed into filaments by its partner Polymaker show excellent temperature stability and toughness. 3D-printed products made from these polycarbonates can be used in lighting, design and other applications that depend on good strength even with exposure to high temperatures. Further information and also a video can be found at www.3dprint.com/95697/polymaker-covestro-filament.
The first fully flexible materials for selective laser sintering (SLS)
Covestro also offers TPU powders for selective laser sintering (SLS), in which a laser beam is used to sinter the material. Spatial structures are thus created layer by layer. TPU displays significant advantages over materials commonly used in SLS, which tend to be less tough and elastic.
TPU powders are already used in the industrial production of individualized high-perfomance soles for shoes, for example. Those products are formulated and commercialized at key footwear OEMs by Covestro’s partner Lehmann&Voss&Co.
Next generation liquid resins for industrial additive manufacturing
Covestro has been developing systems for stereolithography (SLA), digital light process (DLP) and inkjet printing.
These PU-based resins offer the unique opportunity to customize performance (toughness, flexibility, chemical & weathering resistance) due to the broad range of isocyanates and polyols from Covestro. This chemistry will enable customization of object properties at the voxel level, for example to create gradient materials.
1 quoted after: Jeff Kowalski, CTO Autodesk, Euromold 2015
With 2015 sales of EUR 12.1 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and the sports and leisure industries. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, has 30 production sites around the globe and employs approximately 15,700 people (full-time equivalents) as of the end of 2016.
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This press release may contain forward-looking statements based on current assumptions and forecasts made by Covestro AG. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the actual future results, financial situation, development or performance of the company and the estimates given here. These factors include those discussed in Covestro’s public reports which are available on the Covestro website at www.covestro.com. Covestro assumes no liability whatsoever to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.