The two companies are seeking to accelerate the adoption of industrial 3D printing by lowering the entry barriers for companies looking to produce molds for low volumes or parts with detailed features more quickly and economically. To do this, they have combined Covestro’s material expertise with EnvisionTEC’s 3D printer technology to create what they claim is a complete industrial manufacturing offering for 3D printing injection mold tooling.
Through the partnership, Covestro’s DLP resin e-PerFORM has been optimized for EnvisionTEC’s Perfactory P4K series DLP 3D printer.
“The combination of our P4K printer and Covestro e-PerFORM optimized for our printers enables fast, cost-effective production of injection molding tooling,” said Al Siblani, EnvisionTEC CEO. “Our collaboration has resulted in a new and much-needed solution.”
EnvisionTEC DLP printing
As of February this year, EnvisionTEC became a wholly-owned subsidiary of metal 3D printer manufacturer Desktop Metal in a $300 million acquisition. The company is known for its proprietary Continuous Digital Light Manufacturing (cDLM) 3D printing platform, with its Envision One cDLM printer delivering widespread applications to the dental sector, among other industries.
As well as its 3D printing hardware and technology, EnvisionTEC also has an extensive 190-strong material portfolio. The firm has recently developed two new biocompatible resins, E-Dent 1000 and E-Denture Pro, which are currently undergoing 510k clearance.
EnvisionTEC has invested heavily in biofabrication through its Bioplotter platform, which is capable of printing biocompatible parts for medical use within bone regeneration, soft tissue surgery, optimized drug release, and could potentially fabricate complete organs in the future.
The firm has also teased the potential of its upcoming DLP 8K Xtreme machine, which it claims is significantly faster than both Formlabs’ 3L and HP’s MJF 5200 systems. The printer is to be powered by EnvisionTEC’s Projection Array technology and will use a closed-loop printing process to fabricate parts with “desirable properties.”
Covestro’s polymer expertise
Since its establishment as a legally-independent company in 2015, Covestro has become a global polymer business boasting a broad portfolio of elastomers, foams, films, and composites. The firm’s Addigy, Somos, Arnite and Makrolon materials are specially engineered for 3D printing, and have been developed with sustainability in mind.
For instance, at last year’s Formnext Connect, Covestro launched a new eco-friendly Addigy range of materials that were either partially made from recycled plastics or comprised of up to 20 percent CO2.
Over the years, the company has continued to develop new materials for the technology through various partnerships and acquisitions. In October last year, Covestro agreed to acquire nutritional science specialist Royal DSM’s Resins & Functional Materials unit for €1.6 billion, with the firm’s Somos resin range covering everything from tooling and automotive to aerospace and consumer goods. Covestro also benefitted from the unit’s FDM-suitable filaments and granules and its SLS powders.
Elsewhere, Covestro has worked with fellow polymer 3D printing specialist Polymaker to develop waste-free 3D printable fabrics, and most recently to develop a new material partially made from recycled plastic bottles, called PC-r.
Combining printer and material specialisms
Through their partnership, Covestro and EnvisionTEC are seeking to provide a complete industrial manufacturing offering for 3D printing injection mold tooling, a feat that, according to them, has so far not been accomplished in terms of meeting stringent dimensional stability and minimal warpage industry requirements.
To achieve this, Covestro’s patented DLP e-PerFORM material has been optimized for EnvisionTEC’s P4K series 3D printer. The e-PerFORM resin has been tested with key molding institutes to validate its performance, with results showing the material delivered high stiffness and temperature performance.
Tests carried out by Polyvia, the French Federation of Plastics and Composites, confirmed the material-printer combination’s suitability for rapid tooling applications.
“We tested the new e-PerFORM resin printed on the EnvisionTEC P4K printer and demonstrated that we could achieve very good results in part fidelity and in the number of shots molded in both polypropylene and glass-reinforced nylon,” explained Guy Chrétien, Process Project Manager at Polyvia. “With the cost-effectiveness and print speed of the P4K platform and with the properties of the e-PerFORM resin, this creates additional opportunities for rapid tooling.”
The companies showcased their combined DLP 3D printing offering at this week’s RAPID + TCT event in Chicago, and believe the development will accelerate the adoption of industrial 3D printing for producing molds in low volumes, and parts with detailed features, faster and more economically.
“By working closely with our partner EnvisionTEC, we developed a material that meets critical needs voiced in the market: improved dimensional stability and minimal warpage for optimal functionality,” said Hugo da Silva, Head of Additive Manufacturing at Covestro.
“The validation and proven solution with their P4K printers will help accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing of injection mold tooling.”
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Featured image shows a tool used for injection molding glass-filled nylon gears 3D printed on EnvisionTEC’s Perfactory P4K series printer using the e-PerFORM resin. Photo via EnvisionTEC.