3D printing on the road to mass production
3D printing offers unique possibilities to produce three-dimensional, often complex shaped parts in one step. While until now prototypes and sample parts were predominantly produced in small numbers, interest in industrial mass production is growing in many industries.
Carbon, based in Silicon Valley, has developed the "Digital Light Synthesis" ("DLS") technology for this purpose, which can accelerate the production of parts up to a hundredfold compared to previous processes. After years of research, Carbon has also developed a novel liquid polyurethane resin suitable for the manufacture of parts.
Covestro is an important partner in the scale-up and mass production of this material. The company invested a considerable amount to produce the resin in commercial quantities. The result of the collaboration proves the suitability of the process and material for series production and is a current success of the partnership.
"Our challenge in scaling additive manufacturing to mass production is to provide suitable materials in the right quality and quantity," explains Patrick Rosso, global head of additive manufacturing at Covestro. "Through targeted cooperation with companies such as Carbon, we are shifting existing scale boundaries and supporting various industries along the value chain on the way to digital mass production.
Covestro is currently researching materials to enable an even wider range of industrial applications. To this end, the company is expanding its own laboratories for 3D printing at the Leverkusen, Pittsburgh, and Shanghai sites, where it is developing and testing material solutions for additive production in series production together with customers.
The "DLS" technology developed by Carbon is now being used on a large scale for the first time. Similar to stereolithography, the workpiece is produced in a tank with liquid plastic resin that is cured by UV radiation.
With the "DLS" technology developed by Carbon, oxygen is supplied from below, which counteracts the curing process and creates a "Liquid Dead Zone". For this purpose, the bottom of the vessel consists of a light- and air-permeable membrane, which is similar to a contact lens. The printed object is continuously pulled out of this zone without individual layers forming.
Production using "DLS" technology is up to 100 times faster than stereolithography - another important prerequisite for industrial mass production. A protected process is combined with the corresponding hardware and software as well as a special material. It gives the finished parts the desired technical and mechanical properties.