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Breakthrough in Digital Printing of Coatings and Adhesives

01 December 2015

Covestro has reached a development milestone in digital coating and adhesive technology that has the potential to enable the successful digital printing of polyurethane adhesives.

Covestro explains that, as manufacturers strive to update their businesses for Industry 4.0 and meet customer demands for mass customisation of products, they face the complex task of converting large scale, often manual, production processes into automated digital systems.

The partnership of The Technology Partnership’s (TTP’s) new and revolutionary technology for the rapid digital application of coatings and adhesives, with Covestro’s tailored polyurethane raw materials has demonstrated a new opportunity for digital printing in next generation manufacturing. “We recently successfully tested adhesives formulated with Covestro raw materials,” says Dr. Andrew Baker-Campbell, Project Leader at TTP, “demonstrating a capability to print materials far more challenging than typical inks for inkjet printing.”

To exploit the development, Covestro has established its own laboratory for digital printing. “This variant of inkjet printing could become an entirely new production method within the context of Industry 4.0,” says Dr. Jörg Tillack, who heads 2D printing development at Covestro’s Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties Business Unit. “The positive test result takes us an important step forward.”

Covestro claims that the EUR 5 billion industrial inkjet industry now has the opportunity to penetrate the industrial coatings and adhesives market valued at over EUR 100 billion.

To understand the opportunity for digital technology, Covestro says it carried out a survey of over a 100 respondents in the coatings and adhesives industry. The majority of the respondents to Covestro’s survey – 93 percent – believe that digital printing will create additional value for their business, and 50 percent of machinery providers surveyed have customers asking for digital printing solutions today.

From its long-term experience, Covestro says that it understands the practical challenges facing any industrial coating or adhesive technology. The demands far exceed decoration: Durability and resistance to a number of environmental factors as well as adhesion and bond strength are all added challenges to overcome. This often results in fluids with properties incompatible with industrial inkjet, such as high viscosity, or large particulates.

That is why the vast majority of coatings and adhesives are still using low-tech application technologies such as spraying or even brushing. Covestro and the British technology development consultancy, TTP, are collaborating on material systems and digital printing technologies to address these challenges and unlock this opportunity.

To encourage wide adoption of the technology, Covestro and TTP explain they are now seeking partners throughout the value chain. Covestro and TTP say they would like to hear from interested end-users with a desire to develop concepts for next-generation products and processes. Furthermore, they are looking for manufacturers of print heads, printers and automation systems who wish to invest in delivering this technology to market. Enquiries from developers of coatings, adhesives and inks who want to add value to their products are also welcome.

Adam Salmen of Covestro and James McCrone of TTP will talk about the new digital printing technology for industrial quality coatings and adhesives and its potential at the IMI European Ink Jet Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands from 2–4 December 2015.