Leading polymer manufacturer Covestro and 3D printing company Carbon are teaming up to scale up production of Carbon’s polyurethane liquid resin material. The material, which is suitable for producing production parts using Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology, will now be produced at high volumes to meet mass production demand.
Carbon’s DLS additive manufacturing process is playing a key role in the adoption of polymer 3D printing on a mass scale. The technique is similar to stereolithography—in that it relies on UV radiation and photoactive polymer resins—but it offers dramatically faster print speeds. These print rates are owed in large part to a “liquid dead zone” in the print area, which allows the printed part to be pulled upward continuously without the formation of individual layers.
Overall, the print speeds achieved by Carbon have paved the way for the technology to be used for mass production applications. One of the company’s most notable collaborations has been with sports brand Adidas, which is using DLS systems to mass produce mid-soles for its Futurecraft 4D sneakers.
Another important element in Carbon’s success are its polyurethane-based liquid resin materials, which are becoming more broadly available thanks to a partnership with Covestro, which has invested a significant amount of money to enable the production of the resin at a commercial scale.
“Our biggest challenge in the upscaling of additive manufacturing until series production lies in the supply of suitable materials in the required quality and quantity,” explained Patrick Rosso, global head of additive manufacturing at Covestro. “By partnering with companies like Carbon, we are pushing existing scale boundaries and supporting various industries along the value chain on their way to digital mass production.”
In addition to partnering with Carbon, Covestro is also researching new materials to develop new industrial, mass production applications for AM. As part of this effort, the materials company is upgrading its 3D printing capabilities at its Leverkusen, Pittsburgh and Shanghai sites. The company is working with a number of partners to develop AM materials, such as a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) for laser sintering.