3D Printing and Digital Printing are groundbreaking technologies with the potential to change the world of product design and industrial manufacturing as we know it. In order to unlock their vast potential, however, innovative and more versatile printing materials need to be developed. Experts at Covestro are up to the task.
"The solutions available in the market so far only enable the additive manufacturing of components with a small range of features. We want to change that."
Thomas Büsgen, Senior Project Manager 3D Printing Technology at Covestro

Precision and flexibility on an unprecedented level are the hallmarks of both Digital Printing and 3D Printing (the latter also known as Additive Manufacturing). These technologies make it possible to efficiently customize goods to the demands of consumers regarding shape and color, and to individualize their mechanical properties, e.g. their level of hardness and surface structures.

What often is lacking are suitable printing materials that achieve the traits desired in the finished product. A short look at the figures explains this: while there are some 3,000 materials used in traditional manufacturing, only 30 are available for Additive Manufacturing. Covestro is working in close cooperation with other pioneers in various industry sectors to broaden the material basis for Digital Printing and 3D Printing. In this way, our expertise helps to bridge the gap that still lies between the innovative printing methods and their application in series production.

Our contribution to innovative printing technologies

3D Printing

3D Printing as a technology has left the “hype stage” and is already used for specific industry purposes, such as rapid prototyping and the creation of single high-value parts, e.g. in the fields of aerospace, automotive, biomedical, or clothing and accessories. When it comes to the series production of functional components, however, the technology is still too expensive – and there are not enough construction materials available. Product designers are looking for a versatile mix of materials to ensure the exact properties required in a given 3D-printed object, e.g. with regard to hardness, flexibility, transparency and heat resistance.

Covestro is working exactly on this. In our 3D Printing Labs, e.g. at our Corporate Headquarters in Leverkusen, we test innovative materials fit for all existing 3D Printing techniques together with our customers and partners. And the joint efforts pay off. One great example in the development of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) for laser-sintering. Laser-sintering is a 3D Printing technology that allows the immediate creation of components with complex, individual geometries out of an extremely thin layer of plastic powder. Its only weakness so far: for the series production of high-class parts, there had only been one type of material available, and this material was not suited for elastic components. An innovative powder made from TPU, developed by Covestro, provided the solution: thanks to the polyurethane’s long molecular chains, the powder is perfect for sintering objects that are both tough and flexible.

Digital Printing

Digital Printing offers great opportunities to coatings and adhesives manufacturers in diverse industries. For example, the technology could make it possible to apply an individual texture design on a sneaker or a personalized paint job on a car. Aside these consumer-related advantages, Direct Printing also has many benefits regarding production safety and efficiency. Thanks to the drop-by-drop application, the mechanical behavior of the final coating can be steered for each and every point on a surface. This means no waste of resources due to overspray and fully automated work process in consistent top quality.

As with 3D Printing, one of the major challenges of Direct Printing lies in the availability of high-performance production materials. And as with 3D Printing, the innovative minds at Covestro are already working today on the options that coating and adhesives manufacturers will have tomorrow.