Covestro recognises that 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.
Covestro explains that both prototypes and samples can be fabricated layer by layer at a reasonable cost. After recognising the advantages of these additive manufacturing processes, it says that industry now also views them as a major opportunity for efficient mass production of complex or individualised parts.
3D printing has to clear some hurdles before it can go into more widespread use. Covestro says that one key issue is the lack of suitable materials. While over 3,000 materials are available for conventional component manufacturing, only about 30 are available for 3D printing.
Covestro currently is developing a comprehensive range of filaments, powders and liquid resins for all common 3D printing methods. It says these efforts will make a key contribution to advancing the use of 3D printing in industrial mass production.
“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.” The company believes that the material data should be integrated into the software used on 3D printers so that component structures can be further optimised.
Covestro recently opened a new laboratory for 3D printing at its headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany. 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.
Covestro offers a broad choice of filaments for the FFF process, from flexible thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) to high strength polycarbonate (PC).
Covestro TPU is described as very well suited for additive manufacturing thanks to its excellent abrasion resistance and elasticity. Typical applications are sports, footwear or automotive.
Covestro PC says its 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 http://3dprint.com/95697/polymaker-covestro-filament/.
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 individualised high-perfomance soles for shoes, for example. Those products are formulated and commercialised at key footwear OEMs by Covestro’s partner Lehmann & Voss.
Covestro has been developing systems for stereolithography (SLA), digital light process (DLP) and inkjet printing.
These PU-based resins offer the unique opportunity to customise performance (toughness, flexibility, chemical & weathering resistance) due to the broad range of isocyanates and polyols from Covestro. This chemistry will enable customisation of object properties at the voxel level, for example to create gradient materials.
Image provided by Covestro
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