Material majors dive deep into additive manufacturing

Polymer producers and compounders are enhancing materials for additive manufacturing to satisfy companies wanting to 3D print functional parts, jigs, fixtures and mould cavities. By Peter Mapleston

It’s a sure sign that additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing (3DP) has hit the mainstream when major polymer producers and compounders more used to selling high volumes into injection mould- ing take big stakes in the business. That is what is happening now, with the likes of Covestro, Evonik, LehVoss, and others, all putting significant resourc- es into AM, whether it’s for product development, collaborations with smaller but more established players, or business acquisitions. It’s not just the materials companies that are making moves though. Technology companies are also advancing with equipment more suited than ever to production of commercial parts. But AM does not forget its origins in rapid prototyping either: many things are going on there too. Far too many to cover in a single article, so what follows are highlights that have the most interest for injection moulders. At compounding major LehVoss Group, Thomas

Collet, Director 3D Printing Materials & Marketing in the company’s Customised Polymer Materials BU, says many injection moulders are now carrying out 3DP (mostly fused filament fabrication, FFF) themselves or buying parts for internal use, in applications spanning prototypes, functional parts, jigs, fixtures and mould cavities. “More and more companies are starting small series production (end use parts) or considering it,” he says. Parallel to the development and launch of new

materials for different AM technologies, LehVoss is working on the industrialisation of 3DP, says Collet. Certification body TÜV Süd has certified a 3DP process using the combination of one of its Luvocom 3F filaments, with an Ultimaker printer. This comprised the material properties, production of the test specimen, including the dimensional tolerances, the manufacture of the filament and the printing process. Emissions were also measured during the printing process. “The printing process meets the requirements

drawn up by TÜV Süd in all aspects,” says Collet. “The filament under test, Luvocom 3F Filament PAHT 9825 NT (an unreinforced high-performance polyamide), and the Ultimaker S5 Pro Bundle are the world’s first system certified by TÜV Süd in the field of fused filament fabrication.” “This is an important step for the industrialisa- tion and scalability of FFF,” says Thiago Medeiros Araujo, Business Development Luvocom 3F. “The certified system increases reliability in parts production and is intended to accelerate the use of 3D printing to put it on a par with already estab- lished production processes such as injection moulding.” He says LehVoss is the world’s first supplier of filaments with this certification. The biopolymer PLA played a big part in getting FFF going. For some time, PLA was a clear favourite

Main image: Polymaker PC-r polycarbonate filament for 3D printing is made from a Covestro plastic recyclate produced from used water bottles from Chinese water bottle manufac- turer Nongfu Spring

June 2021 | INJECTION WORLD 29


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