Covestro develops materials for 3D printing

Covestro is developing a complete range of filaments, powders and liquid resins for all common 3D printing methods. The polymer technology company aims to advance the use of 3D printing in industrial mass production.

3D printing has to clear some hurdles before it can go into more widespread use. One key issue is the lack of suitable materials. While over 3000 materials are available for conventional component manufacturing, only about 30 are available for 3D printing, according to Covestro.

The company markets products with a variety of properties like toughness and heat resistance as well as transparency and flexibility that support a number of applications.

“We want to work with leading partners in the process chain to further advance these developments,” said 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.”

Covestro recently opened a laboratory for 3D printing at its headquarters in Leverkusen. The lab will be used by the company and its partners to develop material solutions and test them under practical conditions.

The company offers a choice of filaments for the fused filament fabrication (FFF) process, from flexible thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) to high strength polycarbonate (PC). Covestro TPU is suitable for additive manufacturing in sports, footwear or automotive due to its abrasion resistance and elasticity. Covestro PC grades transformed into filaments by its partner Polymaker are claimed to 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.

Covestro also offers TPU powders for selective laser sintering (SLS). TPU is said to display significant advantages over materials commonly used in SLS, which tend to be less tough and elastic. Covestro has also been developing systems for stereolithography (SLA), digital light process (DLP) and inkjet printing.

These PU-based resins offer the opportunity to customise performance (toughness, flexibility, chemical & weathering resistance) due to the isocyanates and polyols from Covestro. This chemistry will enable customisation of object properties at the voxel level, for example to create gradient materials.