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A. Schulman and BASF form trans-Atlantic partnerships with 3D printing companies to accelerate materials development for large-scale additive manufacturing.

Norbert Sparrow

November 2, 2016

2 Min Read
Compounders, chemicals companies and 3D-printing tech providers team up to fill materials gap

A limited selection of materials is one of the primary factors hampering growth of additive manufacturing, aka 3D printing, on an industrial scale. Consequently, providers of 3D printing technology increasingly are forming partnerships with chemicals companies and compounders to accelerate materials development: French 3D-printing pioneer Prodways (Les Mureaux) has signed a strategic agreement with materials supplier A. Schulman (Akron, OH), and BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) strengthened its collaboration with HP (Palo Alto, CA). In both cases, the objective is to develop 3D-printing materials for large-scale industrial applications.

Head of R&D at Prodways, André-Luc Allanic developed one of the first European high-speed 3D printers.

Prodways aims to “boost the emergence of additive manufacturing in series production” by offering industrial customers with appropriate laser sintering technology and support. A subsidiary of Groupe Gorgé, a company focused on people and property safety technology with reported revenue of €264 million in 2015, Prodways has developed high-end 3D printers on an open materials platform. The partnership with A. Schulman, a supplier of high-performance polymer compounds and composites, will allow Prodways to “access state-of-the-art compounding know-how to develop materials that are economical, reliable and whose mechanical properties are not yet reachable with 3D printing,” said Prodways CEO Alban d’Halluin.

The partnership seeks to work with industrial and high-value companies to develop custom solutions in a range of markets, according to a press release distributed by the firms.

In another trans-Atlantic partnership announced today, BASF reports that it is strengthening its collaboration with HP to develop materials for large-scale production via the HP Multi Jet Fusion Open Platform.

HP’s technology differs from other 3D-printing techniques and, notably laser sintering, in that a print head applies agents in the desired shape on a polymer powder, which are then fused through exposure to an energy source. The agent’s thermal conductivity results in melting of the polymer powder only where the print head has applied the fusing agent and not where the detailing agent is present. In conventional laser sintering, powder is applied and melted incrementally via a moving laser. The company claims that the Multi Jet Fusion Open Platform can accelerate large-scale production by a factor of 10 while cutting costs in half.

BASF says that it has the broadest product portfolio of materials that can be developed for 3D-printing applications. One recent example is its Ultrasint PA6 X028, a polyamide-6 powder that outperforms other polyamides currently used in 3D printing in terms of mechanical stability and heat resistance, according to Dietmar Geiser, who heads BASF’s 3D-printing strategy within the BASF New Business group. “We are working to develop durable materials that can be used in goods such as automobiles, electronics, sports equipment and materials for the machining industry,” said Geiser.

Furthering its commitment to this market, BASF has established a new dedicated business unit and created an Application Technology Center for 3D printing in Heidelberg, Germany. The center is dedicated to developing custom material solutions and downstream applications for customers.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.

www.linkedin.com/in/norbertsparrow

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